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1.4M Canadians have experienced prolonged COVID-19 symptoms: StatCan

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Around 1.4 million Canadian adults who know or suspect they’ve had COVID-19 say they experienced symptoms months after getting sick, according to new data released Monday by Statistics Canada.

The data, released in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), is the first national look at Canadians who experienced long-term symptoms after a positive COVID-19 test or suspected infection. It was gathered through the second cycle of StatCan’s Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey.

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As of the end of May 2022, almost one-third of Canadians aged 18 years and older tested positive for COVID-19 and another 8.3 per cent suspected they had the virus, according to the survey results.

Of those who know or believe they were infected, 14.8 per cent — or 1.4 million Canadians — say they had symptoms at least three months after their initial infection.

Fatigue was the most common symptom, experienced by almost three-quarters of those with long-term symptoms, followed by cough and shortness of breath at 39 per cent and brain fog at 33 per cent.

More women reported prolonged COVID-19 symptoms than men, but there were no significant differences among different age groups.

The data also shows people who experienced more severe symptoms from their initial COVID-19 illness were more likely to experience longer-term symptoms. For example, among those who rated their initial illness as moderate, 15 per cent say they had longer-term symptoms, while 6.3 per cent who reported a mild case of COVID-19 reported longer-term symptoms.

In addition, nearly one in three Canadians who experienced symptoms for at least three months after getting COVID-19 say they had recovered from their initial illness before symptoms returned.

More men than women — 37 per cent compared to 29 per cent — said their COVID-19 symptoms resolved and later returned, but this phenomenon also varied by age group and was lowest among those aged 65 and older.

Meanwhile, after December 2021 when Omicron became the dominant strain of the virus infecting Canadians, the number of people who experienced prolonged symptoms dropped by more than half.

Statistics Canada does not refer to these cases as “long COVID”. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines post-COVID-19 condition as any illness that occurs three months after the onset of symptoms that last for at least two months or longer and cannot be explained by any other diagnosis, including “fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction but also others and generally have an impact on everyday functioning.”

Overall, the majority of Canadians rated their symptoms as mild to moderate. This was the case for nearly four in five Canadians, while 16.7 per cent rated their symptoms as severe, defined as having a significant impact on their daily life.

Statistics Canada warns some of these results — gathered between January 2020 and May 2022 — could be underestimated, as some people who were infected with COVID-19 may not have been aware they had contracted the virus or received a false negative test result.

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Children’s hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries

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A children’s hospital in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries and appointments starting Monday.

Health officials say it’s due to a high level of respiratory illness.

It is unclear how many surgeries and appointments at Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John‘s will be affected.

Residents who are not experiencing a medical emergency are being asked to avoid visiting an emergency department.

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Older adults amongst the most susceptible to RSV

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TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The risk of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV, typically flies under the radar when it comes to older adults.

With 10 times the amount of older adults being hospitalized for RSV than in previous years, understanding the risk is important for those who are more susceptible.

“RSV in older adults starts out with the same symptoms as younger adults. With common cold-like symptoms- nasal congestion, sniffles, low-grade temperature, sore throat, dry cough, tiredness. These symptoms will last for a few days,” Mary Derby, Nurse Manager at Pima County Health Department explained.

“However, an older adult or an adult with chronic medical conditions such as heart and lung disease- they can experience more serious symptoms, such as getting a high fever, dehydration, and real difficulty breathing.”

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Derby says if these symptoms lead to extreme chest pain, loss of color in the face, or struggle to breathe- seek medical attention immediately.

It is also important for those assisting an older adult to be aware of the risk imposed on those more susceptible.

“If you’re caring for older adults, please wash your hands frequently. Watch for your own symptoms and stay away if you’re experiencing symptoms. Consider wearing a mask to protect that older adult, because these older adults do need that protection… Take it seriously,” Derby emphasized.

Upward 6,000 to 10,000 older adults die each year from RSV.

As we make our way through the holidays, be sure to stay up to date with COVID-19 and Influenza vaccines, stay home if you are not feeling well, wash your hands often and for those at higher risk, wear a fitted mask around others.

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Breanna Isbell is a reporter for KGUN 9. She joined the KGUN 9 team in July of 2022 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in sports journalism from Arizona State University in May. Share your story ideas with Breanna by emailing breanna.isbell@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, or Twitter.

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AIDS day walk in North Battleford aims to `banish that stigma’

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 By Julia Peterson

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On World AIDS Day, advocates in the Battlefords gathered to raise awareness about how the virus affects people in their community, and how people can get help and treatment, if they need it.

“HIV is completely preventable in today’s society, with all the advances in medication,” said Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre’s HIV project coordinator, Cymric Leask. “But due to a lot of intersecting factors, especially due to COVID  in the past couple of years, our HIV numbers have skyrocketed.”

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In 2021, more than 200 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the province, even while testing, treatment and outreach were reduced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of new HIV infections in Canada, and has had the highest annual rate in the country for more than a decade.

The proportion of new HIV cases in rural areas is rising, too.

“Here up north, there are such large barriers to access to care,” said Leask. “We do have some great resources here in North Battleford  but it’s still very hard to access the proper care for HIV.”

For example, getting started on HIV medication requires a visit with a communicable disease doctor, but there is no communicable disease doctor based in the Battlefords. Instead, that doctor visits the community only once every four months.

Another barrier Leask has found is that many people still have an outdated  understanding of what HIV is, who is at risk and how treatment works.

“Especially here in rural areas, it’s stigmatized as something that only affects gay or bisexual men, men who have sex with men,” Leask said.

Today in Saskatchewan, men and women are diagnosed with HIV at almost equal rates, and two thirds of new cases are passed through injection drug use.

Treatments are much easier to manage than they used to be; some only involve taking one pill a day.

But the enduring stigma around HIV makes it harder for people to find community and support.

“People don’t talk about it,” said Jackie Kennedy, executive director of the Battlefords Indian and Metis Friendship Centre. “I think they’re afraid to. A lot of people don’t disclose that information (about their HIV status) because they are afraid to be judged.”

As more people continue to be diagnosed with HIV in Saskatchewan every year, groups and organizations in the Battlefords are working hard to make it easier for people to get testing, treatment, information and harm reduction supplies.

“We want to banish that stigma of how it used to be,” said Leask. “It’s not like that anymore.”

  Julia Peterson is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE STARPHOENIX

The LJI program is federally funded.

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