Seven-year-old Cedar Herle squeezed her eyes shut and grabbed onto the fur of a therapy dog as she received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Regina clinic over the weekend.
But she never hesitated.
“I want COVID to go away forever and never come back,” she said.
As the push continues for children aged five through 11 to get vaccinated, the curly-haired brunette knows first-hand the long-term effects of the disease. Cedar lost all of her hair after contracting COVID-19 a year ago, and she watched her mother suffer a COVID-related stroke.
“She had to stay in bed lots,” Cedar said.
Andrea Herle, a 39-year-old mother-of-three, is still recovering from the long-term effects of the disease. Her physiotherapy doesn’t even include moving her body yet — just breathing exercises.
“We do not want COVID in our house again,” Herle said. “I would never, ever have imagined to be under 40 and have a stroke.”
At first, just an ‘inconvenience’
In November 2020, Herle, a licensed practical nurse who had just returned to work from maternity leave, was caring for COVID-19 patients in their homes.
Then, on Dec. 5, 2020, she woke up drenched in sweat with a pounding heart, body aches and nausea. She knew immediately that she had been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, but at that moment, she mostly felt annoyed at the “inconvenience” of a 14-day quarantine.
Herle spent most of those two weeks in bed, while her husband and kids had only mild symptoms.
Then, a few weeks later, Cedar started napping a lot, vomiting and losing her hair in clumps. Her parents noticed that the bald spots were getting larger.
“It just happened really fast. Every day she lost hair until she didn’t have any,” Herle said.
That set off weeks of uncertainty, blood work and consultations with specialists, who concluded that the coronavirus had likely triggered an autoimmune response and alopecia (hair loss). Skin and hair problems are documented effects of the virus, but research is still in its infancy.
A new international registry has begun to track alopecia in people who tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Herle was considered “recovered” from her own COVID-19, despite lingering fatigue and brain fog, and she returned to work.
“The first week of February, I just felt sick again. I felt all the COVID symptoms again and I thought, ‘Well, this is so weird,'” she said.
This time, the neurological symptoms scared her.
She couldn’t remember things or form thoughts, her left side was weak and she couldn’t move her fingers. She knew something was “seriously wrong.”
Herle was admitted to Regina General Hospital for nine days for multiple tests. Four neurologists reviewed her case, and medical files confirm that she had “sustained a small stroke that may have been due to COVID-19 related inflammation or prothrombotic state.”
When Herle was in the hospital, her body seemed to shut down, prompting a Code Blue emergency response.
“And I remember my husband opening up my eyes and just yelling at me to breathe. And in that time, I thought, like, ‘Is this it? This can’t be it,'” she recalled.
Ten months later, Herle is still off the job with workers’ compensation benefits for the job-related illness.
She’s working hard to regain her strength but not pushing herself to the point that she’ll suffer setbacks. A neurologist warned her that it could take a year or two for her brain to heal, she said.
Vaccine uptake for children levelled off
The mother has to limit Cedar’s activities so she doesn’t tire out. The girl’s hair is growing back — although it’s now curly and dark-brown instead of straight and light brown.
Herle says her daughter’s vaccination felt like a turning point.
“It’s been a lot of stress. But we’re lucky. We’re very lucky because there’s a lot of people who have come out of this a lot worse,” Herle said.
Cedar is one of 41,824 children in her age group of five- to 11-year-olds to get the vaccine in Saskatchewan — about 37 per cent of the eligible population in that age group — since the pediatric doses were approved in Canada in late November.
Dr. Alexander Wong, an infectious diseases physician at Regina General Hospital, says he’s concerned that the uptake has levelled off sooner than anticipated.
“There was big uptake, you know, in the first week or two, and then we would naturally expect some things to slow down. I think we’re seeing perhaps a bit more hesitancy than we might have actually expected, quite frankly,” he said.
Herle says she hopes her family’s story will remind people that the virus can have an unpredictable — and almost unimaginable — impact.
After Cedar was vaccinated, she held up a sign that read, “Done with you Covid! Get out of our house and leave my hair at the door!”
Pakistan says trial of Chinese traditional medicine for COVID-19 successful
Pakistani health authorities on Monday announced the completion of a successful clinical trial of Chinese traditional herbal medicine for treating COVID-19, as the South Asian nation enters a fifth wave of the pandemic driven by the Omicron variant.
The Chinese medicine, Jinhua Qinggan Granules (JHQG) manufactured by Juxiechang (Beijing) pharmaceutical Co Ltd, is already being used in treatment of COVID-19 patients in China.
“Since it was tried on patients with different variants of COVID-19, we expect it to be effective on Omicron as on other variants,” Professor Iqbal Chaudhry, director of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Science (ICCBS) where trials were conducted, told reporters.
The trials were conducted on 300 patients who were treated at home, and would work on mild to moderate COVID-19 cases, Dr Raza Shah, principal investigator in the trials, told reporters, adding that the efficacy rate was around 82.67%.
The trials were approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan.
Pakistan reported 4,340 COVID-19 cases on Monday, the highest recorded in a 24-hour period in three months. Karachi, the country’s largest city, recorded a positivity rate – the percentage of tests coming back positive – of 39.39% at the weekend, the highest so far.
“In the last seven days, COVID cases in Pakistan have increased by 170% while deaths have also increased by 62%,” the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC), which is overseeing the pandemic response, said in a tweet on Monday.
(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Alex Richardson)
How (and why) to 'green' your Mediterranean diet – The Globe and Mail
A Mediterranean diet has been tied to better cognitive function, a lower rate of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
This eating pattern, plentiful in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and olive oil, has also been associated with lower rates of age-related brain atrophy, brain damage which can lead to cognitive impairment and dementia.
So far, though, there’s sparse data from randomized controlled trials on whether following a Mediterranean diet can preserve brain volume.
New research from Israel has shown that eating a Mediterranean diet slowed the age-related loss of brain tissue. What’s more, a new take on the diet, a “green” Mediterranean diet, had even greater brain-health benefits.
The latest study
The 18-month DIRECT PLUS trial, published Jan. 10 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, investigated the effect of a high-polyphenol Mediterranean diet (a “green” Mediterranean diet) on age-related brain atrophy.
Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in a wide range of plant foods. DIRECT PLUS stands for Dietary Intervention Randomized Controlled Trial – Polyphenols Unprocessed.
The researchers assigned 284 adults with abdominal obesity, average age 51, to one of three diet groups: 1) healthy diet guidelines, 2) a Mediterranean diet or, 3) a higher-polyphenol green Mediterranean diet.
Both Mediterranean diets were calorie-restricted and included 28 g of walnuts (e.g., 14 walnut halves), nuts high in polyphenols.
To boost polyphenols, the green Mediterranean diet included four to five cups of green tea daily and a green shake containing Mankai, a branded strain of an aquatic plant called duckweed (or water lentils). Those in the green Mediterranean diet group also further reduced their intake of processed and red meat.
All participants received free gym memberships and a program of aerobic and resistance exercise.
Participants underwent brain MRI (magnetic-resonance-imaging) scans before and after the trial. Specific areas of the brain were measured as indicators of brain atrophy and predictors of future dementia risk.
Over 18 months, participants in both Mediterranean diet groups had a significantly lower decline in brain atrophy compared to the healthy diet guideline group. The greatest decline in brain tissue loss, however, was observed among those consuming the green Mediterranean diet, especially in people over age 50.
The green Mediterranean diet components – green tea, Mankai and walnuts – were each associated with reduced brain atrophy, as was eating less red and processed meat.
Participants in both Mediterranean diet groups also had improvements in insulin sensitivity, which was also tied to less brain volume loss.
The study didn’t show a significant effect of either Mediterranean diet on cognition, perhaps because the study wasn’t long enough and/or it involved relatively young and healthy people.
All diet groups participated in physical exercise, which may have contributed to the slowdown of brain atrophy.
The strengths of this study include participants high adherence to their diets and that, to date, it’s the longest and largest brain MRI study investigating the effect diet on brain atrophy.
How polyphenols protect the brain
The beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diet on brain aging is thought to be due, at least in part, to its abundance of polyphenols, phytochemicals which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Polyphenols can cross the blood-brain barrier and have been shown to reduce nerve cell inflammation and stimulate an increase in brain cells.
Eating a Mediterranean diet rich in fish, vegetables and olive oil is also thought to protect the brain from a buildup of proteins that form plaques and destroy brain cells.
‘Greening’ your Mediterranean diet
Following a Mediterranean eating pattern means including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, pulses, nuts and olive oil in your daily diet.
Limit red meat to three meals a week. The green Mediterranean diet limits meat even further, getting more protein from beans, lentils and nuts. Flavour meals with polyphenol-rich herbs and spices.
Build on these staples by adding more polyphenol-rich foods to your daily diet, including 28 g of walnuts. Drink three or four cups of green tea each day (white and oolong tea also have polyphenols).
Drinking a Mankai green shake may be more challenging, though, at least for Canadians. In the U.S., frozen cubes of Mankai duckweed are sold online through Amazon and WW (Weight Watchers). Mankai duckweed powder is also available online.
Add other polyphenol-rich foods to your diet, too, such as berries, apples, kale, broccoli, spinach, cocoa, tofu, edamame, flaxseed and pecans.
Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD
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Moderna CEO says data for Omicron-specific shot likely available in March
Moderna Inc’s vaccine candidate against the Omicron coronavirus variant will enter clinical development in the next few weeks and the company expects to be able to share data with regulators around March, CEO Stephane Bancel said on Monday.
“The vaccine is being finished … it should be in the clinic in coming weeks. We are hoping in the March timeframe to be able to have data to share with regulators to figure out next steps,” Bancel said at the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda conference.
Moderna is also developing a single vaccine that combines a booster dose against COVID-19 with its experimental flu shot. (https://reut.rs/3FAeyya)
Bancel said the best case scenario was the combined COVID/flu vaccine would be available by the fall of 2023, at least in some countries.
“Our goal is to be able to have a single annual booster so that we don’t have compliance issues where people don’t want to get two to three shots a winter.”
Many countries are already offering a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to their citizens, especially to older individuals and those who are immunocompromised, while Israel has started offering its citizens a fourth dose.
Earlier in January, Moderna’s CEO said people may need a fourth shot in the fall of 2022 as the efficacy of boosters against COVID-19 was likely to decline over the next few months.
However, booster programs have met with skepticism from some disease experts over whether, and how widely, additional doses should become available, including the European Union’s drug regulator, which has expressed doubts about the need for a fourth booster dose.
Speaking at the same event, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said there was no evidence that repeat booster doses would overwhelm the immune system.
“Giving boosters at different times, there is really no evidence that’s going to hinder (immune response).”
Fauci said the goal should be to have a booster that induces a response against multiple potential variants.
(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter)
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