Dan writes:

Dear TWiV,

I’ve been a fly on the wall of your conversations since the end of the world began earlier this year. Thanks for what you do!

I was so excited to be offered the opportunity to return some expertise in the form of mere counting. I’m a software engineer living in Portland, OR and counting up the length of all your episodes is definitely something I can help with.

All the episodes total to 3,598,179 seconds, or about 999 hours, 29 minutes, and 39 seconds. Assuming you could manage sixteen hours a day of non-stop TWiV listening, this would turn into about 62.5 days. One way to look at this is that the total body of TWiV content is about the same length as the lockdown for this pandemic has been (at this point) for people like me who are more than happy to stay home.

On a personal note, I was hoping the number would come out to be something quite different so I could put some joke in here about being happy to prove Alan wrong, as he seems like the kinda guy that needs to be proven wrong now and again (takes one to know one!). Oh well, not this time … he was pretty dang close 🙂

Perhaps the next episode should contain a 1000-hour e-celebration?


A note on my methods:

This comes from the duration tag in the RSS feed you provide on the site, the resolution of which is one second, thus there may be a small amount of rounding error (approximately 0.018% maximum error). The feed contains 650 episodes, which I assume covers any special or unnumbered episodes, as TWiV is currently at 632 as of this count.

Mike writes:

Dear TWIVers:

In a recent episode, Dickson thought that a reader response complimenting the show sounded like it could be a haiku.  

I tried to capture the spirit of that response in the following haiku, entitled “An Ode to TWIV”:

COVID-19 clouds
Can only be dispelled by
The sunlight of TWIV

Thank you for all you do!



George writes:

Dear Vincent and team

I’m a long-time listener and fan of TWiV based in Wales (weather today is 16°C/61°F and drizzly). I work as an OB-GYN, but spent a year in the middle of my medical degree studying immunology and virology at the University of Bristol, at which time one of my lecturers kindly put me onto TWiV. I’ve been hooked ever since.

I am enrolled in the Oxford University SARS-CoV-2 ChAdOx vaccine trial (phase II/III), and received a vaccine a week ago. Naturally I have read up on all the minutiae of the ChAdOx platform, and it’s all the more exciting to follow the trial when I have skin in the game (kind of literally). For my arm of the trial there’s a 50% chance that I received the experimental vaccine, and 50% chance that I received a MenACWY vaccine (the control group). To be eligible to participate, I was antibody tested at the outset to ensure that my SARS-CoV-2 serology was negative. In passing, the epidemiologist administering my vaccine mentioned that the experimental vaccine would make me test positive for future serological tests (no surprise).

The NHS (National Health Service) here in Wales is now rolling out routine antibody testing for staff members like me (this is primarily for the benefit of epidemiology and public health, but those tested are informed of their result). I hope you can help me with my dilemma – do I accept one of these tests, which would effectively unblind me? While possible that I could’ve ended up in the control group and also had asymptomatic infection since vaccination, one of these tests would almost certainly tell me whether I had the experimental vaccine or the control. As a further twist, the majority of trial participants are healthcare workers and so will be offered this serological testing like me. I suspect most of them will opt to be tested. Should I act like them in order to make our behaviour more homogeneous/consistent?

Part of me feels I have a duty to expose myself to lots of others for the benefit of science. Irrespective of whether I received the experimental vaccine or control vaccine, the trial data will be stronger if I expose myself. What stops me acting on this is the knowledge that I could be putting my patients and other contacts at risk.

Finally – in response to what is now emerging as virology’s greatest question

Do farts spread coronavirus?

… I can report that some urology doctors at my hospital have been insisting on using comprehensive PPE before performing rectal examinations on any patient. While I think it is definitely better to be excessively cautious while we still have much to learn about SARS-CoV-2, I am sure that any fart transmission event would be so significant as to be instantly published as a case report – this has yet to happen!

Thanks for everything you do and for keeping my enthusiasm for virology lifelong.

Dr George Winter

Wrexham Maelor Hospital (don’t sweat over the pronunciation)

North Wales

Jenn writes:

Hello from Melbourne, Australia.

It is…. 11°C and raining outside. Perfect physical social distancing weather. 

Firstly, thank you for TWIV, I’m only a recent convert to your die-hard fanbase, but have enjoyed and truly learnt much from Professor Racaniello’s lectures for a few years. 

As a Biomed/Public Health undergrad, I’m obviously an expert in my field. ^_^

But seriously… I’ve been keeping up with the pandemic since December, and, as bad as it has been so far, I’ve been dreading the day we see indications of the pandemic spreading to the developing world, especially Africa.  

We’re all aware that these regions face certain challenges with respect to healthcare resources and infrastructure, fragile economies, etc. Where there is poverty, there is ill-health, and there are significant discrepancies in life-expectancy. Add to this, the displacement of over 6.6 million refugees in sub-saharan countries.

However, I’m interested to know your opinions on age demographics, across Africa.

Looking at the median ages, by country across the world; Europe has some of the highest median ages ; Italy, Germany, Monaco, also Japan – these range from between 45-48yrs. 

Countries with the LOWEST; Niger, Mali, Uganda, Angola and Zambia; theirs ranges between ~ 15.4 – 16.5 yrs. The median age for the entire continent of Africa is only 19.7 yrs…  HALF the population of Africa is under 19.7 years of age. 

I know a lot of issues make predictions and comparisons hard, but do you think this could have any implications on the impact of COVID-19 mortality in Africa? Or am I being too reductive? 

On that note; in a recent TWIV episode, one of your listeners quoted Jonathan Swift, to whom is attributable my all-time favourite and ever-poignant quote;

Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it – so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.)

Jonathan Swift. 

Thankyou for all that you do – which I think may be more than you know. Please be safe 

Kindest regards,


P.SStay angry.

Wayne writes:

Hello Twivers,

Another quick note and question from Wakayama Japan…I just finished listening to the podcast that Dr. Vincent did in Singapore on mosquitos.

While walking my dog on this very hot 28C rainy morning I was cogitating on the idea of…if the SARS 2 is in the blood as was mentioned in a previous podcast ( my 76 year old memory fails me on which one it was) but I think Dr.Griffin mentioned it…could the virus be transmitted via a mosquito injection of anticoagulant from an infected person?

Love your great wisdom and humor…BTW Dr.Vincent I live in Bozeman MT as well as in Japan and now there are 213 infected folks in Bozeman…numerous out of state visitors come to Bozeman for fly fishing and to visit Yellowstone National Park. Early in the pandemic out of state visitors were banned from MT by Gov. Bullock!

Again thanks for your great and informative podcast…a fresh wind clearing the fog of ignorance.


Wakayama JP

JP writes:

Dear TWiVians,

I write to you from Salt Lake City, where it’s 78°F and sunny. Our humidity is resting at 32%, which is no small blessing in our wildfire-prone state. I’m currently finishing up my PhD, though not in a science-based field, but rather in Creative Writing. I am but a humble poet. I found my way to TWiV via my partner Cecilia, whose PhD is in virology. Of course, our respective fields aren’t so different. We strive to make the invisible seen and the ineffable defined. 

As a scholar and lover of literature, I was elated to hear Daniel, in Episode 632, quote from Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. Later in the episode, you mention a time-lapse graphic that compares Covid-related deaths to more familiar causes of death, thereby making the dangers of Covid more real to the general public. It occurred to me that these abilities to concretize and analogize are two of literature’s greatest assets. 

 Perhaps you’ve heard the (somewhat apocryphal) tale that Shakespeare composed King Lear while in quarantine, which likely influenced the play’s bleak, existentialist tone. And maybe you’ve read Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. Chances are, though, you’re not familiar Kyrie, a brilliant book by the brilliant poet Ellen Bryant Voigt, which imagines scenes from the 1918 influenza pandemic. Here are eight sonnets from Kyrie, as they appear in the literary journal Blackbird. I hope you enjoy them, and I’d love to hear what you think. 

I was wondering, too, do you have any pandemic-themed book recommendations for me?

Thank you all so much for keeping us informed and amused in equal measure. #StayGrumpy. 

Yours, with gratitude,


Mona writes:

Dear TWiV,

My error was in my letter you read in TWiV 631.  I failed to include context for why I wrote what I wrote.  In a recent TWiV, you discussed the mutation at codon 614 as it was in an alarmist preprint some months ago and was found lacking.  You discussed how many mutations had been found in the US and Vincent said there were probably not many.  I was trying to find the answer to that question.  This is just info: Nextstrain looks at thousands of SARS-COV-2 sequences from all over the world but they have (or had on that day) 113 from the US of which about 2/3 have the original G and about 1/3 have the changed amino acid D. Here is the link again:


Maybe I’m being somewhat helpful in sending these tidbits but maybe not.

Here’s another.  In #631, you also discussed slaughterhouses.  Besides beef, pork, chickens, there are others like tuna, which is cleaned involving many workers outside the US.  We have a friend involved in cleaning and packing tuna in Manta, Ecuador, where there are many canneries.  In his factory they are taking many precautions: spacing, face masks and shields, sometimes plexiglass separations.  They have few problems but he said the other factories which don’t take precautions are having more COVID-19.  By the way COVID is rampant in Ecuador.

Beorn writes:

Dear TWIV team, 

Love the in-depth long form discussion, I’ve learned a lot.  

I have a skating question…

I’m a former olympic speedskater and currently completing my PhD in neuroscience in the Netherlands.  My research has me stationed in skating rinks for extended periods of time. 

August 1st, the big indoor 400 meter skating rink in the Speedskate-crazy-Netherlands is partially opening back up.

At first glance speed skating seems like a relatively safe sport; on a big 400 meter ice track, you’d think  physical social  distancing wouldn’t be an issue…


How bad is it to have 300 skaters breathing heavily in a chilled indoor environment, skating at 30 km/h in tight packs of 5 to 20 individuals?  Aren’t skaters essentially going to be ‘crop dusting’ each other with corona? 

or do I see this wrong?

Thanks alot for the great information and discussion, 


Rich writes:

Hi TWiVers again!

My friend is a teacher at a highschool in Europe.

At their school, the children are required to wear masks when in the playground, in the corridors and in the classrooms when away from their seat.  But once seated, they can take them off.  The classes are 50% capacity, and have 1 child per desk, 2m apart.

Would it be wiser to have the kids wear the masks the whole time instead?  Even when seated?  Remembering that they’ll be spending about 1 hour in that classroom, together with their peers and teacher.

The restaurant infections that we’ve all seen the paper on does highlight that being on a different table does not mean that you are 100% safe (especially if you have a fan blowing air around!), so a classroom with 2m distancing, that kids spend 1hr together in, doesn’t seem that dissimilar.

We’re playing a numbers game, and every effort we take reduces the probabilities of infection by various amounts.  So masks protect us/others a bit, distance protects us/others a bit, etc, etc, all adding up.

Here, the kids are wearing masks much of the time anyway, so it’s not adding something new, or adding cost, or time, it’s just doing something for more of the time.

Obviously, you could make exceptions for language classes, where seeing lips moving is absolutely valuable… 

My friend points out that the kids wouldn’t like it, but hey, they’re already wearing the masks when moving about, so they’ll get over it.  And if the school has an outbreak, that would be bad, as the kid’s and teacher’s health is at stake, and also the kid’s education/grades, as an outbreak could close a whole school for weeks.

A fundamental point that I so often encounter as needing to be raised, is that we should do the best we can for as much of the time as we can… as we can never get to 100%…  I’m sure this is a named logical fallacy, but can’t think what it would be…  I so often hear: “We can’t do it all the time so why bother…”, or “it’s only 50% effective so why bother”, etc, etc…  We should highlight all these measures that are available to us, especially where it’s continuing what we’re doing, with no cost, no extra effort, such that we can all do as much as we can, to the best that we can, and it all adds up.  We all get distracted and focus too narrowly on stuff, so we probably need constant reminding of this!

Loving the in-depth, detailed coverage and teachings you’re giving us!

Cheers again,


Brit, living in Bali still… where it’s 30 deg C most of the time, but dry season is coming!  Has our sweaty wet season contributed to our strangely low numbers out here?  The lack of testing only explains part of it, it seems.

Richard writes:

Please note this chart of folks who were infected on a airplane with SARS and their seat locations.


Flying unprotected by PPE does appear risky. My question is would it make sense to fly protected by an adult diaper as well as other PPE? As I am 67 years old and have a new grandchild living in Chamonix, France (current temp, 57’ F) I hope your answer is not ‘It depends…’. 

Thank you for your informative discussions, and I think answering mail is a great part of the podcast.