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B.C. doctor links non-medical use of nitrous oxide to serious illness, addiction – Vancouver Sun



A B.C. doctor is warning against intentionally inhaling nitrous oxide, saying it causes psychosis and other neurological effects.

A B.C. doctor has seen patients who have intentionally inhaled nitrous oxide and suffered drug-induced psychosis and neurological effects.

PNG Files

An emergency room physician in British Columbia is warning of the misuse of a cooking tool that requires the use of nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas.

A statement from Vancouver Coastal Health says Dr. Matthew Kwok reports seeing patients at Richmond Hospital who have intentionally inhaled the gas and suffered drug-induced psychosis and neurological effects.

Nitrous oxide is used in medical and dental offices for sedation and pain, but it is also readily available in small canisters, called whippits, that are attached to a kitchen utensil used to whip cream.

Kwok says addiction to nitrous oxide is possible and non-medical use of the gas can be “extremely dangerous.”

In the December issue of the B.C. Medical Journal, Kwok reports that no single agency in Canada is tracking non-medical overdoses, despite the dangers posed by the gas which is easily purchased.

Kwok is calling for restricted access to nitrous oxide, safeguards to minimize harm and greater awareness by medical staff and the public about non-medical use of laughing gas.

“When people present at the emergency department with unexplained neurological symptoms it’s important for clinicians to consider nitrous oxide as a possible cause,” Kwok says in the statement.

The article in the B.C. Medical Journal outlines the case of a 20-year old woman who was hallucinating but had no history of psychiatric or medical illness, although she admitted to daily use of nitrous oxide, and had recently increased her dosage.

“It’s also important for users to know that using this product outside a supervised medical setting can cause serious health effects,” says Kwok.

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COVID-19 outbreak at Edmonton seniors’ residence involving variant grows to 36 cases – The Globe and Mail



Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

A COVID-19 outbreak at a seniors’ residence in Edmonton that involves a more contagious variant of the virus has grown to 36 infections as the province speeds up its vaccine program for older Albertans.

The outbreak at Churchill Manor, a private seniors’ residence in the southeastern part of the city, began last Friday when the first case was detected. Atria Retirement Canada, which operates the facility, said 32 residents and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday. Alberta Health said 19 have also tested positive for a more contagious variant.

Residents at Churchill Manor received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, after the outbreak had begun and residents were exposed. Privately operated supportive living facilities such as Churchill Manor were included in the second phase of the province’s vaccine rollout, receiving their shots in the same period as people in the broader community who are 75 and older.

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Premier Jason Kenney used the outbreak to criticize the federal government for the delayed rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, suggesting people at Churchill Manor would have been vaccinated earlier if only Ottawa had a better handle on the situation.

Atria said it had been slowly easing restrictions on residents beginning on Feb. 12, including offering meals in the dining room with physical distancing. People at the facility were still required to wear masks and undergo regular screening.

As soon as the first case of COVID-19 was detected, the company said, Churchill Manor asked residents to stay in their rooms and prohibited group gatherings.

“We are confident we are doing everything we can to protect our residents and staff,” a statement from the company said. “Alberta Health Services has reviewed our safety measures and has said they are satisfied with our protocols.”

Alberta Health Services staff are on-site this week conducting additional tests.

Atria said four of the residents who were infected are recovering off-site. Neither the company nor Alberta Health would say if any of them are in hospital.

The province announced in January that it had given first vaccine doses to all long-term care residents and staff, which included people in nursing care and publicly funded supportive living. That did not include private facilities, which were instead included in the second phase that began in late February. Private group-living facilities such as seniors’ lodges with residents older than 75 started on Feb. 19, a few days before vaccinations rolled out to everyone in the province in that age group regardless of where they live.

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Staff in the fully private facilities will be able to get vaccinated in the next phase, which begins on March 15.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said people in long-term care sites or publicly funded supportive living facilities have a greater risk because of their age and underlying health conditions. She said the province had to make decisions based on risk to manage a limited supply of vaccines.

“When we looked at our rollout of vaccination to different groups, we prioritized the greatest impact with respect to severe illness and death,” she told a media briefing on Thursday.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said there has been confusion because of the complex nature of the continuing care system, which involves a mix of public and private facilities and funding, with varying levels of care.

Earlier in the day, Premier Kenney pointed to the Churchill Manor outbreak during a news conference with other premiers as he repeated his criticism of delays with the federal vaccine program.

“They should have been vaccinated weeks ago, like they were in similar settings in the United States, Israel, the U.K. and many, many, many other countries,” he said.

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A day earlier, Alberta joined other provinces in extending the time between first and second doses of the vaccines to four months, which is now recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Mr. Shandro announced Thursday that every adult in the province will be able to get their first shot by the end of June, with the next phase of vaccinations for people 65 and older and Indigenous peoples aged 50 and up starting on March 15.

The AstraZeneca vaccine will be available later this month to people who are 50 to 64. They will have a choice to either get the AstraZeneca vaccine or wait until their turn in the overall priority list for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

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B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next – Boundary Creek Times



B.C. public health officials are expecting their first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 next week, and are preparing to administer it to first responders and other essential workers.

Details of when people in the large group of essential workers will receive their first dose are expected by the third week of March, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. The new vaccination program is to run in parallel with the age-based vaccination of seniors using Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, starting with those aged 90 and up next week.

Henry reported the latest coronavirus case numbers, with 564 new cases and four additional deaths associated with COVID-19 in the 24 hours up to March 4. There were no new outbreaks in communities or the health care system, with seven outbreak protocols currently in effect at long-term care and assisted living facilities. There have been cases found in three independent living senior homes, but a low number of positive tests has been found, Henry said.

Overall vaccination in B.C. is nearing 300,000, and public health officials expect the rate to accelerate with Pfizer and Moderna vaccine deliveries resuming and the permissible interval between the first shot and the booster shot extended to four months.

Henry apologized to people in long-term care whose second-dose appointments were cancelled, as public health officials updated their vaccination plan last weekend based on new research on the effectiveness of first doses over time.

“I regret that our communications weren’t able to keep up as fast as the decision-making,” Henry said, reminding people that any dose they didn’t get has gone to someone else in the community to increase protection for everyone.

RELATED: B.C. extends tourism, small business grant deadline

RELATED: Pub trivia night, one infected person, 298 exposures


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One year later, COVID-19 has left no part of Alberta untouched –



It was inevitable, the premier said.

Though there were only dozens of cases of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 reported in Canada, health officials were resigned that the pandemic would eventually spread into Alberta.

A news bulletin went out in the late afternoon March 5, with few details aside from confirmation that a presumptive case had been confirmed.

Less than an hour later, the province’s chief medical officer of health took to the podium.

“Uh, you all know, my name is Dr. Deena Hinshaw,” she said. “I’m here, as you know, to provide an update on COVID-19 in Alberta.”

Hinshaw went on to provide more details: the presumptive case was a woman in her 50s who had been on board the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of California.

The provincial government sent word to travellers returning from outside Canada: monitor your symptoms. The next day, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney commented on the first case.

“Obviously, we are concerned about this initial presumptive case,” he said. “Given the breadth of this virus around the world, [it was] likely inevitable that we would see some manifestation of it here in Alberta.”

Nearly a year later, Hinshaw needed to introduce herself to Albertans no longer — she had become a fixture when it came to her daily updates on cases, hospitalizations, outbreaks and deaths.

But the province she delivered her messages to had changed. 

Since that first case a year ago, 133,202 other Albertans have tested positive for the virus. Nearly 2,000 Albertans have died.

“It is important to remember that every part of this province, at every sector of society, has been touched by this virus,” Hinshaw said recently.

WATCH | The following animation shows active case rates, adjusted for population, in each of the 132 “local geographic areas” defined by Alberta Health over the course of the pandemic. The darker the area, the more active cases at that time. You can pause the video and use the slider to explore the changes over time:

Active COVID-19 cases, per 100,000 people, from April 2020 to February 2021. Map is divided into 132 ‘local geographic areas,’ as defined by Alberta Health. 0:32

A crisis in long-term care

Allan Pasutto, 86, of Penhold, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination in late February of this year.

“I’m very happy to be alive,” Pasutto said.

But during the darkest early days of the pandemic, a vaccine seemed a world away. Whispers of promising research trials still cautioned developments were months, if not years, away.

In the early months of the pandemic, the virus devastated multiple long-term care homes across Alberta. At the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, more than 100 residents and staff tested positive, and 20 people died.

“It was absolutely horrifying,” Renee Laboucane said in December, reflecting on the outbreak that claimed the life of her mother.

Twenty people died at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, a facility operated by Revera, during the first wave of COVID-19. More than 100 residents and staff tested positive for COVID-19 at the centre. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

As the pandemic grew, outbreaks at long-term care homes became typical while remaining terrifying realities for the families involved.

Cases at some long-term care centres approached 100, while one Edmonton long-term care centre became the deadliest in the province, with 55 deaths.

In mid-February, the premier announced that all residents in long-term care and designated supportive living had received their second shot of the vaccine.

But the grim reality remains that two of every three deaths linked to COVID-19 in Alberta came within these facilities.

WATCH | Renee Laboucane discusses outbreak at Calgary long-term care home, which claimed the life of her mother:

Slaughterhouses become front lines

In mid-April, cases at a Cargill slaughterhouse in High River skyrocketed, with at least 950 staff  — nearly half its workforce — testing positive for COVID-19. The outbreak remains the largest workplace outbreak in Canada.  

It was illustrative of the cold working environments within which experts say COVID-19 thrives.

And it wasn’t just Cargill. In late April, the small community of Brooks went from just a few cases of COVID-19 to one of the province’s biggest hotspots.

Three employees of the JBS Foods meat-processing plant were diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-April, and by the end of the month more than 300 workers had been diagnosed and nearly 900 total cases were recorded throughout the city.

It meant that Brooks — which has 0.3 per cent of the province’s population — represented 26 per cent of its active cases.

The animated chart below shows the top 10 local health zones in Alberta for active cases of COVID-19 over the last two weeks of April 2020. Use the play/pause button at the bottom left to start or stop the animation, or drag the slider to adjust the date displayed:

Similar rapid spread was felt this year at the Olymel slaughterhouse in Red Deer, Alta., which has been linked to at least 500 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths.

That slaughterhouse temporarily shut down Feb. 15, but not before it drew a warning from Alberta Health Services that cautioned that one in five of its 1,850 workers was believed to be infected.

Sixty per cent, AHS said, held at least one job outside the slaughterhouse.

Ariana Quesada, 16, holds up a photo of her father, Benito Quesada, in front of the RCMP detachment in High River, Alta. Her father died after becoming one of hundreds of workers at Cargill’s High River meat-processing facility to contract COVID-19. The company is now the subject of a police investigation. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

For those who have felt loss as outbreaks proliferate among workforces, the grief remains long after case counts go down.

Ariana Quesada, 16, filed a formal complaint against Cargill in early January, asking police to investigate potential criminal negligence in the death of her father.

“We have filed a complaint … to finally bring justice to my dad … to finally hold Cargill accountable for what they did,” Quesada said at the time, fighting back tears.

From large complexes to small gatherings

Earlier this year, total cases at Alberta’s oilsands sites crept past 1,000. Correctional centres in communities like Peace River popped up on Alberta’s outbreak list, while hamlets like Gunn saw cases flare up too.

Though Calgary and Edmonton frequently were found atop Alberta’s list of active cases last fall, rural Alberta saw the highest active rates of COVID-19 in late January.

Of course, the spread of the virus wasn’t concentrated to certain facilities or communities. It spread in churches, hospitals, small businesses, fitness studios and within households.

It devastated families and it shut down businesses, and the economic impacts and the lasting grief of the past year will continue to be felt long after the province has enough vaccines to go around.

WATCH: Alberta announces its first case of COVID-19:

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says the patient is a woman in her 50s who lives in the Calgary zone. She was on board the Grand Princess cruise ship before it was quarantined off the coast of California, returning to Alberta on Feb. 21 and self-isolating at home on Feb. 28. 19:06

On March 6, 2020, one day after Hinshaw announced the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in the province, she took to the podium again, reading from a page of prepared remarks.

“I want to let you know of news that I learned in this past hour. We have a second presumptive case of COVID-19 in Alberta,” she said, adding public health would be following up with close contacts.

“I want to stress that the risk of getting sick from COVID-19 remains low at this time in Alberta. However, with these recent developments, we are anticipating this risk may increase in the weeks to come.”

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