Brazil, scams, tracers, and more…

FSM Friends’ News and Articles

“We failed” – one scientist’s despair as Brazil COVID-19 deaths hit 100,000: Public health policy is no place for easy answers and equivocation. It requires competence, decisiveness, communication, and most of all strong leadership. As Brazil passes 100k COVID-19 deaths in 5 months, and approximately 1000 deaths per day, Brazilian science communicator Natalia Pasternak laments the unnecessary suffering caused by a lack of clarity, by lack of strong leadership and by anti-scientific sentiments, particularly in state leaders who snub social distancing, champion unproven treatments, and work against quarantine.

“We failed – as a country, as a government, as a society – to get the message out in a clear, transparent and educative way. It really disgusts me to see my country go through this. To have the worst possible leadership at the worst moment possible … As a scientist and a citizen, I find it so sad to think how this government has wrecked my country,” she added, her voice breaking. If we had implemented decent quarantine measures, we could have avoided at least half of these 100,000 deaths,” she claimed, remembering how in March an Imperial College projection claimed urgent action could keep Brazil’s death toll down to 44,000. We’re now at more than double this – and we are still in the middle of the pandemic.

The danger is that we normalize this – that we reach a point where people say: ‘Oh, it’s stabilized. Everything’s OK. It’s over!'” Pasternak warned. “No – it’s not over. It’s not normal for 1,000 people to die each day because of an infectious disease. A proper quarantine could have been implemented, like in Germany and New Zealand, “and we would now be in the same place as these countries – reopening safely, with a near-normal life. [But] we don’t have guidelines, we don’t have leadership – we don’t even have a [permanent] health minister. The federal government is being absurdly negligent … and this is one of the biggest reasons Brazil now finds itself in this situation.”

ACCC SCAMWATCH – Health & medical products: The ACCC’s SCAMWATCH have launched their SCAMS AWARENESS week, with resources to help you recognise and avoid scams online, or anywhere! They have compiled some ‘warning signs’ of common Health and Medical scams:

•• You receive an unsolicited email offering cheap or hard-to-get pills or treatments. Often, these emails will promote well-known drugs such as Prozac or Viagra. Or the email offers unrealistic benefits from their medical or health product.
•• The products offered normally require a prescription.
•• The pharmacy’s website is based overseas or does not include a contact telephone number or street address.
•• The treatment claims to be effective against a very wide range of ailments, but there is no scientific evidence to back up the claim that the miracle cure actually works.
•• The product or scheme lacks scientific evidence or demonstrated links between the result and the effects of the program, food, supplement, gadget or process being promoted.

Listen to the Scams Awareness Podcast ‘This is not your life’ here:


Midwives charged with manslaughter after Melbourne mother’s fatal home birth: “Ms Lovell suffered a post-partum haemorrhage, but the ‘massive vaginal blood loss’ went unnoticed because she was in a birthing pool and the room had inadequate lighting. The coroner said Ms Lovell’s vital signs were not adequately monitored and that an ambulance was not called promptly when she fainted after the birth… Ms Lovell was experiencing light-headedness, shortness of breath and was becoming agitated, and was treated with a homeopathic remedy.”

Lesser-known Health Professions

 Contract tracers: Whilst recently in the news a lot for their role in helping with COVID-19, contact tracers play an important role in the management of public health responses to many other transmissible illnesses, including measles, HIV and Hepatitis C.

Today’s Abused Health Concept

Journals for Pseudo-Science (specifically homeopathy) – The journal ‘HOMEOPATHY’ has gone from bad to worse: The quality of the scientific community is often set by its journals. As the gate keepers of the body of literature that scientists and medical professionals contribute to, cite, and learn from they have an incredible power to set the agenda, to inform, and to set standards for quality. So it is very informative to look at the journals of a given field. No source is perfect, but look at the medical field where leading journals like The Lancet, The BMJ, The New England Journal of Medicine etc set rigorous standards and regularly reject irresponsible or unscientific rags of papers. As the phrase says “It’s the fish John West rejects, that makes John West the best…” Now let’s look at the ‘flagship’ journal for homeopathy:

•• Articles promoting homeopathy in the pandemic.
•• Irresponsible promotion of treatments that CAN NOT work, even in the face of mass deaths in the population. 
•• Recommendations to form rapid response teams for homeopaths to engage in pandemic responses.

Clearly this is harmful and irresponsible behaviour and advice in the pandemic. “Others might see it differently and argue that it is not a bad thing at all. By coming out on the side of the loons within homeopathy, the ‘flag-ship’ journal of homeopathy has done a favour to rational healthcare: it has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that HOMEOPATHY (both the journal and the cult) cannot be taken seriously and can therefore be safely discarded to the waste-basket of medical history.”

Thanks to Science

We can develop vaccines against infectious diseases. How is the new COVID-19 vaccine designed to work? Australia has recently secured access to one promising vaccine candidate – AstraZeneca’s ChAdOx1. Although it has not yet been tested in humans to see if it prevents COVID-19, Phase I trials indicates it stimulates a robust immune response. But how does this vaccine work to stimulate immunity? This explainer describes what kind of vaccine ChAdOx1 is, and how it might induce lasting immunity.