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'Be extremely vigilant': farmers, feds worried about growing outbreaks of bird flu – Cornwall Seaway News



Growing cases of bird flu across Canada have left scores of chickens and turkeys dead, poultry farmers devastated, and Canada’s top veterinarian seriously concerned about the weeks ahead.

In less than a week, the H5N1 strain of avian influenza has ripped through three commercial poultry farms in southern Ontario, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Those cases were confirmed after a red-tailed hawk in the Waterloo, Ont., region was found with bird flu 10 days ago. 

The CFIA has placed those three Ontario farms under a strict quarantine and set up a 10-kilometre control zone to limit movement of animals. It’s also helped nearby farms put enhanced biosecurity measures in place to control the spread of the virus.

Dr. Mary-Jane Ireland, chief veterinary officer for the CFIA, said she’s worried about the days ahead given that it’s migration season for many wild birds that can spread the disease.  

“It’s quite a devastating disease,” Ireland said in an interview. 

“We are concerned, this is a high-risk period, and birds are migrating. We have detected it in Canada and more recently in Ontario … and that is why we’re asking people to take precautions.”

The bird flu outbreaks have led to 24 countries temporarily banning imports of birds or poultry products from parts of Canada and in some cases from the whole country, the CFIA said, although a farm stakeholder group has noted that Canada’s poultry production is largely for domestic purposes. 

The risk to the general public is low. Bird flu is not a significant public health concern for humans, Ireland said, and food safety is not an issue, either. 

The impact on farm operations, however, can be severe. 

Avian flu began ripping through commercial farms in Europe last year and then hit the United States. It was confirmed in Canada on Dec. 22, 2021, with the CFIA saying it was detected on an exhibition farm on the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The virus was then found on Jan. 11 in a small flock on the same peninsula. The agency found it again in two commercial farms in Nova Scotia in February and a backyard duck and chicken flock in March.

Bird flu was first detected on a farm near Guelph, Ont., last Sunday. It was then found on a farm near London, Ont., on Monday and on another farm, in Woolwich, Ont., on Wednesday.

The H5N1 virus is highly contagious, Ireland explained. 

“Infected birds can shed the virus in their saliva, their natal secretions and their feces,” she said. “And it can spread through contact with surfaces.”

Those surfaces can include shoes, litter, bedding feed and water, she said.

Anyone who has birds should keep them away from wild birds; frequently clean poultry coops, water, feeders and clothing; and control what goes in and out of a coop or barn, Ireland said.

Wild migratory aquatic birds are the major reservoir for the bird flu virus, she said.

“These birds, we think, have brought the disease into the area,” Ireland said. “And wild birds are migrating right now.”

The virus can also be brought into farms from contaminated manure and contaminated litter, she said.

Anyone who observes wild birds showing neurological symptoms, or farms that see sudden bird deaths, should contact the CFIA or a local vet, Ireland said. 

The Feather Board Command Centre, a group of poultry farmers and members of the feed, process and service industries, helps respond to such emergencies, said its chair, Ingrid DeVisser.

“There’s a lot of stress on farmers, not just on the infected premises, but in the control zones right now,” DeVisser said.

With much of southern Ontario part of a natural flight zone for migrating aquatic birds, she said more outbreaks are expected.

“Farmers everywhere should be very aware of what is going on and be extremely vigilant on their farms with their biosecurity measures, whether they’re commercial farms or whether they’re backyard farms.

The board is helping affected farmers with cleaning measures and helping them navigate the paperwork involved with the CFIA and insurance companies after bird flu is found in their flocks. 

She said all farmers, not just ones in the control zone, should be using dedicated clothing and boots when going into the areas where the birds are kept, using hair nets, masks, hand sanitizers and lots of cleaning. 

Lisa Bishop-Spencer, a spokeswoman for the Feather Board Command Centre, said Canada doesn’t export much poultry so the temporary import bans as a result of the outbreaks aren’t having a significant impact.

“The Canadian poultry and eggs sector is a supply-managed sector, which means it provides for the domestic market primarily,” she said. 

Ontario has recommended small flock owners and other zoological institutions avoid attending shows, swaps and sales at this time.

The Feather Board’s DeVisser, who is also a turkey farmer in Bruce County, Ont., said she’s constantly worried about the virus.

“We are just doing our utmost to be as vigilant as we can on our farm,” she said. “Watching our birds, keeping them healthy and doing whatever we can.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2022.

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Persisting coronavirus could drag out COVID-19 symptoms – National Geographic



Most COVID-19 patients recover from their acute infection within two weeks, but bits of the virus don’t always disappear from patients’ bodies immediately. Now a new study, one of the largest focusing on hospitalized COVID-19 patients, shows that some patients harbor these viral remnants for weeks to months after their primary COVID-19 symptoms resolve.

The study suggests that when the genetic material of the virus, called RNA, lingers in the body longer than 14 days, patients may face worse disease outcomes, experience delirium, stay longer in the hospital, and have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with those who cleared the virus rapidly. The persistence of the virus may also play a role in long COVID, the debilitating suite of symptoms that can last for months. Estimates suggest between 7.7 and 23 million people in the United States alone are now affected by long COVID.

Without immunity from vaccination or a previous infection, SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—replicates and spreads throughout the body and is shed through the nose, mouth, and gut. But for most infected people, virus levels in the body peak between three and six days after the original infection, and the immune system clears the pathogen within 10 days. The virus shed after this period is generally not infectious.

Even after accounting for disease severity, whether the patients were intubated, or had underlying medical comorbidities, “there is something here that signals that patients who are persistently PCR positive have worse outcomes,” says Ayush Batra, a neurologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who led the new study.

Batra’s study shows that patients who had prolonged shedding during an acute infection risk more severe outcomes from COVID-19, says Timothy Henrich, a virologist and immunologist at the University of California, San Francisco who was not involved in the new research. But the study doesn’t investigate whether this persistent virus is directly responsible for long COVID.

“There are multiple leading hypotheses out there about the cause of long COVID, including viral persistence, and it may be that there are multiple pathways at play, perhaps to some varying degree in any one person,” says Linda Geng, a doctor at Stanford Health Care who co-directs a newly opened Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome Clinic for treating long COVID sufferers.

Persisting virus causes worse COVID-19 outcomes

Batra and his team began studying persistent coronavirus infections after observing that some patients who were returning to the hospital were still testing positive for the virus four or five weeks after they were diagnosed with the initial infection.

For their new study, the team analyzed 2,518 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the Northwestern Medicine Healthcare system between March and August 2020. They focused on PCR tests, which are considered the gold standard, because such tests detect genetic material from the virus and so are highly sensitive and less likely to return false negatives.

The team found that 42 percent of patients continued to test PCR positive two weeks or longer after their initial diagnosis. After more than 90 days, 12 percent of the persistent shedders were still testing positive; one person tested positive 269 days after the original infection.

Viral persistence has been noted before in previous smaller studies. Researchers showed that even patients without obvious COVID-19 symptoms harbored SARS-CoV-2 for a couple of months and beyond. In some immunocompromised patients, the virus may not be cleared for a year. Four percent of COVID-19 patients in a trial on chronic COVID-19 infection at Stanford continued to shed viral RNA in feces seven months after diagnosis. However, Batra’s study illustrates that a larger number of patients take longer to clear the virus than previously realized.

“Persistent RNA shedding would mean that there still is a reservoir of virus somewhere in the body,” says Michael VanElzakker, a neuroscientist affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Tufts University. Such reservoirs are thought to allow the virus to persist over a long period of time and could trigger the immune system to act aberrantly, perhaps causing long COVID.

“Some patients, for variety of reasons, are not able to clear this reservoir, or their immune system reacts in some abnormal way that results in these persistent symptoms that have come to be termed as long COVID,” says Batra.

Still, many scientists don’t think there is sufficient evidence yet to link the persistence of viral RNA to long COVID.

Sleeping viruses

The list of human tissues where SARS-CoV-2 hides long after the initial infection is growing. Studies have identified the virus, or genetic material from it, in the intestines of patients four months after initial infection, and inside the lung of a deceased donor more than a hundred days after recovery from COVID-19. One study that’s not yet peer reviewed also detected the virus in the appendix and breast tissues 175 and 462 days, respectively, after coronavirus infections. And research from the U.S. National Institutes of Health that’s also not yet peer reviewed detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA persisting at low levels across multiple tissues for more than seven months, even when it was undetectable in blood.

“It is not surprising to find viruses encountered during the lifetime” surviving in human tissues, says Kei Sato, a virologist at the University of Tokyo. Indeed, Sato’s work has shown that humans frequently accumulate viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus, varicella zoster virus (which causes chicken pox), and many herpes viruses in dormant forms. These persisting viruses are typically present at low levels, so only extensive genetic sequencing can identify them.

This highlights how complicated it is to prove or disprove the association between persisting SARS-CoV-2 and long COVID. Shingles, for example, occurs decades after a chickenpox infection, when the latent virus gets reactivated during immune stress.

Likewise, lingering SARS-CoV-2 could cause long-term health problems. Henrich thinks when the virus is seeded in deep tissues, it potentially causes the immune system to shift into a dysregulated inflammatory state. Such a state is “probably evidence that the virus is capable of persisting, and maybe getting down into sort of an uneasy truce with the body,” says VanElzakker.

Still, associating any lingering virus with long COVID will require extensive studies. “We still don’t know enough to make strong conclusions about any of the current proposed mechanisms, but research is actively underway to answer those questions,” says Geng.

Clearing up persistent virus might cure long COVID 

Both Geng and Henrich’s groups have reported preliminary case studies that show an improvement in long COVID symptoms after patients were treated with Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral antiviral Paxlovid. Paxlovid stops the virus from replicating, which is why some experts think it can clear any lingering virus. But both authors urge caution before assuming that Paxlovid will be safe, effective, or sufficient and thereby a reliable cure for long COVID.

“There are some interesting hypotheses about how Paxlovid may be useful in the treatment of long COVID, but we’d need further investigation and clinical trials before coming to any conclusions,” says Geng.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned against off-label uses of Paxlovid, which is not approved for long COVID treatment. The agency has given Paxlovid an emergency use authorization to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in those who are at risk of developing severe disease, twice daily for five days soon after a positive test.

“It would be important to consider the optimal duration of treatment [of Paxlovid] to ensure long-term and sustained results,” says Geng.

President Joe Biden has directed the secretary of Health and Human Services to create a national action plan on long COVID, and the NIH has launched a multi-year study called RECOVER to understand, prevent, and treat long-term health effects related to COVID-19.

In the meantime, vaccines not only continue to protect against severe disease, but evidence is also emerging that they can prevent many long COVID symptoms. One new study compared 1.5 million unvaccinated COVID-19 patients to 25,225 vaccinated patients with breakthrough infections, and it found that vaccines significantly reduced the risk of developing long COVID symptoms 28 days after an infection. The protective effect of vaccination got even larger at 90 days post-infection.

“Although a majority of people do not develop long COVID, it’s certainly a risk, and COVID doesn’t stop after the first 10 days of becoming infected,” says Henrich. “For those who don’t take COVID seriously, it can be life changing.”

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No suspected cases of monkeypox in B.C., CDC says – Global News



The BC Centre for Disease Control has confirmed there are no suspected cases of monkeypox in the province.

“Public health interviewed two individuals but upon investigation, it was determined that they were not considered contacts of cases as they had not been exposed,” the BCCDC said in a statement.

“No suspect cases or contacts of monkeypox are under investigation in B.C. at this time.”

Canada’s chief public health officer said earlier Friday there are now just under two dozen cases of monkeypox in Canada and there were some suspected cases in B.C.

Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that “people under investigation by local authorities are following up in Quebec but then in British Columbia as well.”

So far, only two cases have been confirmed in Quebec, which are the first cases in Canada.

Read more:

Monkeypox spread ‘unusual’ but risk to Canadians is ‘low,’ officials say

“A communication has gone out to regional health authorities and medical microbiologists about monkeypox with information on symptoms, laboratory testing and diagnosis, infection control precautions, treatment and notification/reporting requirements,” the BCCDC said in a statement. “Clinicians are asked to notify their regional health authority and local microbiologist about any possible cases.”

Click to play video: 'Canada’s top doctor discusses vaccine strategies for monkeypox'

Canada’s top doctor discusses vaccine strategies for monkeypox

Canada’s top doctor discusses vaccine strategies for monkeypox

Monkeypox is a zoonotic infectious disease that results in occasional human infections usually associated with exposure to infected animals or contaminated materials, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

“Limited cases have been identified in other regions in the past, including the United Kingdom, United States, Israel and Singapore, but never before in Canada,” the agency said.

While human-to-human spread of monkeypox is uncommon, close contact with an infected individual through bodily fluids, lesions on skin like blisters and/or respiratory droplets can transmit the virus, PHAC said.

Read more:

Canada confirms first 2 cases of monkeypox in Quebec

Sharing clothing, bedding or common items that have been contaminated with the infected person’s fluids or sores can also spread the virus.

On Wednesday, the U.S. confirmed its first case of monkeypox this year in a man who recently travelled to Canada.

Health officials in European countries where monkeypox cases have been found this month said the majority of the cases were men who have sex with men.

Click to play video: 'Monkeypox: What is it and is it a cause for concern?'

Monkeypox: What is it and is it a cause for concern?

Monkeypox: What is it and is it a cause for concern?

Tam said Friday there could be more cases announced in the days ahead as tests are still being conducted.

“There are samples under processing at the National Microbiology Lab as we speak, so we might expect to hear more confirmations in the upcoming hours and days,” Tam told reporters during a news conference on Friday.

—with files from Saba Aziz

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Vaccination after infection may curb long COVID; desktop 'air curtains' may deflect virus particles –



A nurse fills up syringes with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines for residents who are over 50 years old and immunocompromised and are eligible to receive their second booster shots in Waterford, Michigan, U.S., April 8, 2022. REUTERS/Emily Elconin

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May 19 (Reuters) – The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

Post-infection vaccination may reduce long COVID

Vaccination after infection with SARS-CoV-2 may contribute to a reduction in the burden of long COVID symptoms, a new study suggests.

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Researchers tracked 6,729 volunteers ages 18 to 69, who got two shots of either AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) viral vector vaccine or an mRNA vaccine from Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech (22UAy.DE) or Moderna (MRNA.O) after recovering from an infection with the coronavirus and who reported long COVID symptoms of any severity at least once between February and September 2021. The odds of reporting long COVID – symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks – fell by an average of 13% after a first vaccine dose, the researchers reported on Wednesday in The BMJ. The second dose, given 12 weeks after the first, was associated with a further 9% decrease in the odds of long COVID that persisted for at least 9 weeks, on average, the researchers said. The odds of reporting long COVID severe enough to result in functional impairment were similarly reduced, researchers reported. Outcomes were similar regardless of vaccine type, interval from infection to first vaccine dose, underlying health status, or severity of COVID-19. However, the study was not designed to detect such differences, nor can it definitively prove that vaccines lower the odds of long COVID.

“Further research is required to evaluate the long-term relationship between vaccination and long COVID, in particular the impact of the Omicron variant,” which emerged after this study ended, the researchers said.

Desktop “air curtains” may deflect virus particles

When people cannot maintain a safe distance to avoid the spread of COVID-19, a newly designed desktop “air curtain” can block aerosols in exhaled air, researchers found.

Air-curtains – artificially created streams of moving air – are often used to protect patients in operating rooms. At Nagoya University in Japan, researchers tested their new desktop device by simulating a blood collection booth in which a lab technician is close to the patient. Aerosol particles blown toward the curtain “were observed to bend abruptly toward (a) suction port” without passing through the air curtain, they reported on Tuesday in AIP Advances. Even putting an arm through the air curtain did not break the flow or reduce its effectiveness, they said. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can be installed inside the suction port, they added.

If further testing in real-life conditions confirms the effectiveness of the system, it could “be useful as an indirect barrier not only in the medical field but also in situations where sufficient physical distance cannot be maintained, such as at the reception counter,” the researchers said.

Antacid aids in COVID-19 by helping limit inflammation

Researchers have discovered just how the antacid famotidine, commonly sold as Pepcid by a Johnson & Johnson unit, was able to help alleviate COVID-19 symptoms in clinical trials.

In studies in mice, they found that famotidine stimulates the vagus nerve, which controls the immune system and other involuntary body functions. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it can send out signals to suppress severe immune reactions – so-called cytokine storms – in which high levels of inflammatory proteins are released into the blood too quickly. When famotidine was administered to the mice, it significantly reduced levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood and spleen and improved survival. But when the vagus nerve was cut, famotidine no longer stopped the cytokine storms, according to a report published on Monday in Molecular Medicine. The data “point to a role of the vagus nerve inflammatory reflex in suppressing cytokine storm during COVID-19,” coauthor Dr. Kevin Tracey of The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York, said in a statement.

Direct electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve is known to improve a variety of diseases. “Famotidine, a well-tolerated oral drug, could offer an additional method” of activating the vagus nerve to reduce inflammatory protein generation and resulting tissue damage in COVID-19 and other diseases, the researchers concluded.

Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

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Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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