Today is Pi day, a day to celebrate Pi, a constant that is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Pi is also an “irrational number”, a mathematical construct, but not a description of Pi’s behavior. Pi is anything but irrational in its constancy. The digits keep going. and going to infinity How many of you can recite the digits beyond the first 5?
It would make my father happy to celebrate this math concept. He was a brilliant mathematician and chose to teach at a community college after retirement to help students learn not to be afraid of math. He even won a teaching award, if you can imagine someone winning an award for teaching math. I was lucky because my father taught me not to be afraid of math and to understand it. He always made me feel like I was capable, a wonderful gift to a girl growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in Texas. He taught me to appreciate science too, which is why I love keeping up with all the changes in medicine.
This past week was CROI, the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, an international gathering of research scientists that focuses on HIV and other infectious diseases like Hepatitis C. This year’s was virtual. I was privileged to attend a few times when I worked in Santa Fe at Southwest Care Center. One must be participating in active research in order to attend, so I felt lucky that I got to go. This is one of the biggest medical conferences of the year where large studies and new breakthroughs are reported. Exciting and hopeful for those of us in the field. This year’s was no different. The focus was not just on HIV, but also on COVID-19.
At the conference, data from a study showed that after being given a new treatment in pill form for COVID-19, people had no virus detected after 5 days, compared to 24% who got the placebo. One of the problems so far with treatments that can decrease COVID-19 severity is that they are infusions or injections which really limit access. Having a pill is a breakthrough. We can use it like Tamiflu to help if someone has been exposed and develops symptoms. The trial is still in Phase 2, but promising. Hopefully it can be approved by year’s end.
We need it despite the success of the vaccines. The variants are an issue but the larger concern is that we have a big vaccine skepticism problem, not just in the US but worldwide. Many have been reassured now that more than 100 million doses in the US have been given. Now we need to continue to help people see the benefits of the vaccine.
But we are facing a very daunting problem of disinformation and conspiracy theories as chronicled in this excellent Rolling Stone article.. Some communities are reaching out to help reassure and educate people, but they are fighting the misinformation on social media that influences so many. Others, like this nurse in Baton Rouge, are directly reaching out to their community. Communities that have larger numbers not vaccinated will continue to have higher number of cases and deaths. Dr. Fauci is hoping that the former president will reach out to his followers who are the biggest group resisting the vaccine.
More of you will be vaccinated soon. The rate of vaccinations is speeding up and the dam is opening up. 2.5 million a day vaccinations were given yesterday in the US. (You can see how your state is doing at the site on NPR linked below). Hopefully we can also start sharing with other countries. Until the risk of COVID-19 goes down everywhere, we will still be at risk here.
In the meantime, those of us who have received our vaccine are grateful for the scientific advances that have occurred so that we feel safer and protected. We can all show gratitude to each other and the volunteers and providers who help us get ours, like Yo-Yo Ma did when he got his second vaccine yesterday.
Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and eat pie for pi day.
And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.