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A look at how workplaces can prepare for possible coronavirus outbreak – 570 News

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TORONTO — Companies wary of what an infectious outbreak could do to their workforce and bottom line are revisiting contingency plans as the new coronavirus continues to spread.

Marie-Helene Primeau of the Montreal-based risk management company Premier Continuum says she’s spent recent days fielding questions from several firms seeking guidance on what to do if the rapidly spreading illness that originated in China threatens the health of employees and customers.

“Everyone’s looking at their state of readiness,” says Primeau, whose company provides training and advice to a range of firms including banks, insurance companies, government agencies and those in manufacturing.

“They’re actively revisiting the plans, but they’re not necessarily stockpiling masks.”

Health officials in Canada have repeatedly stressed that the risk to public health remains low. Seven cases have been identified in Canada, while worldwide, the illness known as 2019-nCoV has sickened more than 37,000 people and killed more than 800, nearly all in China.

Nevertheless, Canadians are being urged to remain vigilant against infection, with medical experts reminding the public we’re still in the throes of flu season and that good hygiene is advised — wash hands frequently, cough and sneeze into tissue or your upper sleeve, and don’t touch your face.

Disaster management expert Amin Mawani says workers and managers alike should take this time to combat misinformation, repeat hygiene tips, be clear on sick leave policies and prepare for the possibility of mass absenteeism.

If an outbreak hits, employers should encourage unwell workers to stay home, Mawani says, but a key step to mitigating an outbreak’s impact is to keep people from getting sick in the first place.

“You can’t buy traditional insurance in a sense, but you can prepare for it by spending some money planning for it and stockpiling certain things — masks and whatever else you might need,” says Mawani, academic director of the health industry management program at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto.

A possible outbreak has critics refocused on provincial sick day allowances in Ontario, where the Progressive Conservative government offers most workers three days of unpaid leave each year and allows bosses to demand a doctor’s note.

Health-care workers say that can make it hard for some to stay home when necessary, and if sick people work in high-risk settings — such as food services, long-term care facilities or childcare spaces — the impact can be significant.

“A lack of paid sick days results in children and adults transmitting infections at school and work, exacerbating contagion throughout the province,” the group Decent Work and Health Network warn in an open letter to Premier Doug Ford.

Mawani agreed employers should consider whether they’re prepared to ease sick day restrictions if the virus strikes staff, noting hardline policies also threaten morale and loyalty.

Workers should also consider coming up with their own protective measures, he adds.

“In some ways employees can take the initiative, they can say: ‘Look, I can easily do this at home,’ or ‘I can do this on the weekend. Why do I need to come in tomorrow?’” he says.

“And employers should be willing to listen during this phase so even if (workers) don’t start working from home now (the company) can have plans ready.”

John Yamniuk of the Toronto-based consulting firm DRI Canada says there are ways to limit person-to-person infection at the office, even those with open layouts, communal spaces, and shoulder-to-shoulder computer stations: Is there room to leave a vacant spot between workers? Is there an unused meeting room that can be transformed into an alternate work space?

“If you’re in a call centre environment, (think about) providing extra cleaning services, providing individual headsets for folks so they’re not sharing keyboards or things like that,” adds Yamniuk, based in Calgary.

Primeau’s advice includes making sure contact information for staff and partners are up-to-date.

She also encourages managers to run through “a tabletop exercise” — in which each person discusses their role during an emergency and all agree on how best to respond to various scenarios.

And don’t assume you can just rely on a temp agency if a lot of people call in sick, she adds, because you can’t guarantee availability or loyalty.

“Temporary backup was something that was brought up when we were talking about the (H1N1) pandemic 10 years ago but the thing is that those individuals will also be sick as well,” she says.

“It’s more (about) focusing on what’s key. What’s urgent to perform? What are the critical activities, rather than calling upon a temp.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2020.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

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Polio virus found in New York City wastewater, suggesting local transmission – CBC News

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Health officials identified the virus that causes polio in New York City’s wastewater, suggesting local transmission of the virus, state authorities said on Friday, urging unvaccinated New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

“The NYC Heath Department and the New York State Department of Health have identified poliovirus in sewage in NYC, 
suggesting local transmission of the virus,” the city’s health department said in a statement on Friday.

“Polio can lead to paralysis and even death. We urge unvaccinated New Yorkers to get vaccinated now.”

The identification comes weeks after a case of polio in an adult was made public on July 21 in Rockland County, marking the nation’s first confirmed case in nearly 10 years.

Earlier this month, health officials said the virus was found in wastewater in the New York City suburb a month before health officials there announced the Rockland County case.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at the time that it was not clear whether the virus was actively spreading in New York or elsewhere in the United States.

Evidence of virus in London

There is no cure for polio, which can cause irreversible paralysis in some cases, but it can be prevented by a vaccine made available in 1955.

New York officials have said they are opening vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their shots. 

Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine that has been given in the United States since 2000, according to the CDC. It is given by shot in the leg or arm, depending on the patient’s age.

On Wednesday, British health authorities announced they will offer a polio booster dose to children aged one to nine in London, after finding evidence the virus has been spreading in multiple regions of the capital. Britain’s Health Security Agency said polio virus samples were found in sewage water from eight boroughs of London, but there were no confirmed infections.

Polio is often asymptomatic and people can transmit the virus even when they do not appear sick. But it can produce 
mild, flu-like symptoms that can take as long as 30 days to appear, officials said.

It can strike at any age but the majority of those affected are children aged three and younger. 

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Monkeypox: gov’t has no plans to call public health emergency – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says there are no plans at the moment to declare monkeypox a public health emergency.

While the World Health Organization and the United States have both recently done so, Tam said there is little benefit to declaring a federal public health emergency in Canada, because of the structure of regional and provincial public health authorities.

She said a federal emergency declaration would involve the Emergencies Act — which hasn’t even been invoked to address the nearly two-and-a-half-year COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. Tam said thus far, Canada has already been able to mobilize vaccines, therapeutics, and funding to tackle monkeypox.

Tam also said local and provincial authorities have more flexibility, and have been able to respond to the rise in monkeypox cases. Local and provincial authorities could also decide to declare the virus a public health emergency at those levels, as many did with COVID-19.

“To date our discussions have focused on testing, working with community organizations to raise awareness on ways to limit spread the virus, and deployment of the Imvamune vaccine and therapeutics,” Tam said. “As the global monkeypox outbreak continues to be a serious concern, focusing efforts on the impacted communities in Canada and worldwide, including with vaccinations, we have an opportunity to contain the spread.”

To day, approximately 99,000 doses of Imvamune have been deployed to the provinces and territories, and more than 50,000 people have been vaccinated, Tam said.

Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the approach continues to be vaccinating higher risk communities first, and there are currently enough doses to do so.

Tam says there have been approximately 31,000 cases of monkeypox reported globally, with 1,059 in Canada, mostly in Ontario.

While cases of the virus first started popping up in Quebec, Ontario has since surpassed it in its number of infections.

To date, there have been 28 hospitalizations — two in intensive care — from monkeypox in Canada, and no deaths. Tam said it’s too soon to tell whether the number of cases has plateaued in Canada.

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COVID-19 vaccine side-effects less likely in pregnant people, says study – CP24

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Pregnant people experienced lower rates of side-effects from the COVID-19 vaccine than their counterparts who weren’t pregnant, a new Canadian study suggests.

The Canadian National Vaccine Safety Network collected data from 191,360 vaccinated women aged 15 to 49 between December 2020 and November 2021. The researchers asked participants to report “significant health events” that were serious enough to make them miss school or work, seek medical attention or disrupt their routines.

Of 5,597 pregnant participants, four per cent reported a significant health event within seven days of receiving their first dose of an mRNA vaccine, and 7.3 per cent of 3,108 pregnant respondents said they had side-effects from their second shots.

Among those who weren’t pregnant, 6.3 per cent of 174,765 respondents reported a significant health event after dose one, and 11.3 per cent of 10,254 participants said they felt sick after dose two.

“One of the things that was really striking was that the rates of these events happening in pregnant people was lower than the rates happening in non-pregnant people at the same age,” said Manish Sadarangani, lead author of the paper published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Thursday. “It’s very reassuring around the safety of COVID vaccines and pregnancy.”

Studies on other vaccines have found that pregnant people experience side-effects at roughly the same rate as those who aren’t pregnant or even slightly higher, said Sadarangani, an investigator at BC Children’s Hospital.

More research is needed to understand why this might not be the case for mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, Sadarangani said, but he suspects the physical transformation of pregnancy could be a factor.

“There’s a lot of hormonal and immunological and physiological changes happening during pregnancy, and some of them we understand, some of them we don’t,” he said. “I’m presuming that some of these changes are leading to these lower rates.”

Thursday’s study found that rates of serious health events after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, such as hospitalization, were similarly rare across all groups.

There was no significant difference in the rates of miscarriage or stillbirth among participants who were vaccinated and those who weren’t.

Researchers are conducting a followup survey to see if participants experienced any side-effects six months after their COVID-19 shots, Sadarangani said.

Pregnant people are at increased risk of COVID-19 complications, he said, so it’s all the more important that researchers continue to study how vaccination affects them and their babies.

“All of the data we have really highlight the safety of all of these vaccines in pregnancy,” said Sadarangani. “Ultimately, this is the best way to protect this group of people in our population.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

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