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B.C. pediatrician gives back-to-school advice on respiratory diseases



A B.C. doctor specializing in the treatment of children says families have many options to help protect themselves from respiratory diseases as the school year begins.

Dr. David Goldfarb, a pediatric infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist at BC Children’s Hospital, said there are signs that an active influenza season in Australia this year could repeat itself here.

“It’s not a very clear crystal ball, but it gives us some hints as to what we might see this year — and they did see a fair bit of influenza-b this year, and that can sometimes preferentially affect children compared to other influenza strains.”

The good news: flu vaccines (as soon as they are available this fall) cover you for that strain.


In the meantime, all the old personal hygiene practices honed through three years of pandemic apply — wash your hands regularly, carry and use hand sanitizer, sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, stay home when you’re sick, and if you choose to do so, feel free to wear a mask.

“With the pandemic, we’ve got more used to masking, and that now certainly is an option for people to have another layer of protection and should be a choice that would be respected if somebody would want to do that, including at school,” said the doctor.

“We don’t recommend for kids under two years of age though.”

What do I need to know about BA.2.86?

The BA.2.86 variant of the Omicron strain was identified this week in a person from the Fraser Health region who hadn’t recently been outside the province.

Dr. Brian Conway, an infectious diseases specialist and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, said the variant has likely been in circulation for weeks if not months.

“It’s the evolution of COVID,” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me.”

Conway said BA.2.86 may not cause more severe illness but transmits more easily than other strains of the disease.

“That’s why new variants emerge and take over, they just crowd out the old variant,” he said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix said in a joint statement that there doesn’t seem to be increased severity with the strain and the infected individual is not in hospital.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the new strain may be more capable of infecting people who have previously had COVID-19 or have received COVID-19 vaccines, compared to previous strains.

The World Health Organization says it’s monitoring the variant due to its large number of mutations. It was first detected in Denmark on July 24, and has since turned up in Israel, South Africa, Britain and the U.S.

Goldfarb says it’s not clear how new strains like EG.5 and BA.2.86 will magnify the effects of various influenza strains and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) this year.

Describing it as “unprecedented,” the doctor said last year was a particularly bad year for RSV, a childhood respiratory illness that usually causes mild illness but can become more serious.

What about vaccines?

COVID-19 boosters are currently available in B.C. for anyone over six months. Goldfarb recommends adults who don’t have any pre-existing conditions or a comprised immune system wait for a new COVID-19 booster that will target the prevailing strains and is due out later this fall.

“I certainly would recommend that all children that are school age have their primary series against COVID-19,” he said. “That’s another way to help ensure that they stay protected during the season.”

Through the pandemic, childhood vaccines rates in B.C. and around the world dropped. But Goldfarb says that gap has since largely been closed in B.C. Still, he says, the start of school is always a good time to check you and your family’s vaccination status.

He pointed to the BC Children’s Hospital’s Back-to-School Wellness Toolkit, which offers tips and resources to guide families toward good emotional, mental and physical health.

Goldfarb says there’s a chance this year could resemble a “more normal” respiratory season but that he and his colleagues are planning for a significant number of patients suffering from a respiratory disease.

“COVID-19 is always a more of an unknown,” he said. “We don’t have the decades’ worth of experience that we do with other respiratory viruses and knowing how it might behave.”

“Obviously, we would hope that children would experience a more normal school year — and same for parents.”

With files from the Canadian Press.



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The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life




Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.

That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.

What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?

Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.

Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.


Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations

As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.

Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:

  1. Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
  2. Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
  3. Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.

Determining a Fair Payment Plan

Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.

Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.

Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers

When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:

  • Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
  • Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
  • Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
  • Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.


Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.

Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.

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Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home



THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.

The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.

No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.

Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.




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Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister



Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.

Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.

“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”


Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.

“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.

LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.

“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.

The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.

LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.

From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.

On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.

“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.

LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.

“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.

She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.

Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.

LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.

“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.

–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News



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