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British Columbia extends COVID-19 curbs until February, gyms allowed to reopen

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British Columbia will allow gyms to open from Thursday, but other restrictions will stay in place until Feb. 16 as the healthcare system continues to be impacted by COVID-19, the Canadian province’s top health official said on Tuesday.

The Pacific province had shut gyms and bars, and placed capacity limits on restaurants and events before Christmas when COVID-19 cases started to spike due to the Omicron variant.

“After looking at the data … today I’m taking the cautious step of reopening gyms and exercise facilities with capacity limits and the continued use of the B.C. vaccine card,” Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry told reporters at a briefing.

B.C. had released data on Friday that suggested Omicron infections might have peaked, but new hospitalizations were still a concern as those were projected to continue rising this week.

Nationally, however, cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could surge in coming weeks, putting significant new strains on the healthcare system, Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, said last week.

 

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Older adults face higher risks for long COVID, shots don’t prevent it: U.S. study – Global News

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New U.S. research on long COVID-19 provides fresh evidence that it can happen even after breakthrough infections in vaccinated people, and that older adults face higher risks for the long-term effects.

In a study of veterans published Wednesday, about one-third who had breakthrough infections showed signs of long COVID.

A separate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that up to a year after an initial coronavirus infection, 1 in 4 adults aged 65 and older had at least one potential long COVID health problem, compared with 1 in 5 younger adults.

Long COVID refers to any of more than two dozens symptoms that linger, recur or first appear at least one month after a coronavirus infection. These can affect all parts of the body and may include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog and blood clots.

Read more:

Omicron COVID-19 variant likely to re-infect ‘over and over again,’ experts say

Coronavirus vaccines that help prevent initial infections and serious illnesses provide some protection against long COVID but mounting research shows not as much as scientists had first hoped.

The veterans study published in Nature Medicine reviewed medical records of mostly white male veterans, aged 60, on average. Of the 13 million veterans, almost 3 million had been vaccinated last year, through October.

About 1%, or nearly 34,000, developed breakthrough infections. Lead author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly noted that the study was done before the highly contagious omicron variant appeared at the end of the year and said the rate of breakthrough infections has likely increased.

Breakthrough infections and long COVID symptoms were more common among those who had received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot compared with two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Whether any had received booster shots is not known; the first booster wasn’t OK’d in the U.S. until late September.


Click to play video: 'WHO Director General re-elected for five more years: ‘Luck brought me all the way here’'



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WHO Director General re-elected for five more years: ‘Luck brought me all the way here’


WHO Director General re-elected for five more years: ‘Luck brought me all the way here’

Overall, 32% had long COVID symptoms up to six months after breakthrough infections. That’s compared with 36% of unvaccinated veterans who had been infected and developed long COVID.

Vaccination reduced the chances for any long COVID symptoms by a “modest” 15%,” although it cut the risk in half for lingering respiratory or clotting problems, said Al-Aly, a researcher with Washington University and the Veterans Affairs health system in St. Louis. These symptoms included persistent shortness of breath or cough and blood clots in lungs or veins in the legs.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Kristin Englund, who runs a center for long COVID patients at the Cleveland Clinic, said the Nature Medicine study mirrors what she sees at her clinic. Long COVID patients there include people who were vaccinated and received boosters.

“As we have no clear treatments for long COVID, it is important for everyone to get vaccinated and use other proven methods of prevention such as masking and social distancing in order to prevent infections with COVID and thus long COVID,” Englund said.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox patterns of transmission ‘not typical,’ but virus is ‘containable’: WHO'



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Monkeypox patterns of transmission ‘not typical,’ but virus is ‘containable’: WHO


Monkeypox patterns of transmission ‘not typical,’ but virus is ‘containable’: WHO

The CDC report, released Tuesday, used medical records for almost 2 million U.S. adults from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to last November. They included 353,000 who had COVID-19. Patients were tracked for up to a year to determine if they developed any of 26 health conditions that have been attributed to long COVID.

Those who had COVID were much more likely than other adults without COVID to develop at least one of these conditions, and risks were greatest for those aged 65 and older. Information on vaccination, sex and race was not included.

Breathing problems and muscle aches were among the most common conditions.

Older adults’ risks were higher for certain conditions, including strokes, brain fog, kidney failure and mental health problems. The findings are worrisome because those conditions can hasten older adults’ needs for long-term care, the report authors said.

They stressed that routine assessment of all COVID patients “is critical to reduce the incidence” of long COVID.

© 2022 The Associated Press

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Monkeypox: Cases in Canada climb to 16, PHAC says – CTV News

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The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says it has now confirmed a total of 16 cases of monkeypox in the country, all in Quebec.

The latest update on the spread of the viral disease came in a statement issued Wednesday evening.

The statement says Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory continues to receive samples from multiple jurisdictions for confirmation testing.

“At this time, cases of monkeypox are being identified and treated by local health clinics,” the statement said.

“There is ongoing planning with provinces and territories to provide access to approved vaccines in Canada that, if required, can be used in managing monkeypox in their jurisdiction.”

The PHAC says it has given Quebec a small shipment of the smallpox vaccine Imvamune from Canada’s National Emergency Strategic Stockpile, with other jurisdictions able to receive some supply.

In April, Public Services and Procurement Canada submitted a tender to purchase 500,000 doses of the Imvamune vaccine between 2023 and 2028.

There is currently no need for mass immunizations, the PHAC says.

“I know Canadians are concerned,” Duclos said in a statement Tuesday. “The Government of Canada is prepared to respond to emerging public health events and takes precautions to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.”

The national laboratory received its first samples during the week of May 16, before announcing the first two cases of monkeypox identified in Quebec on May 19. That number rose to five cases the following day.

Since then, other possible cases of monkeypox have emerged in Canada. On Wednesday, Toronto public health authorities said they identified two new suspected cases in the city, along with one probable case currently under investigation.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that was first discovered among colonies of monkeys used for research. Historically, it has also been transmitted from animals to humans, with the first human case recorded in 1970. The virus can spread through close contact with an infected animal, human, or contaminated material.

The federal government is prepared to help provinces and territories develop their own means of testing for the disease in order to monitor it more easily, Duclos said.

“Our surveillance system is working, as is our testing system, though we will continue to refine both, including supporting provinces and territories in building their own testing capacities so cases can be identified and traced even more efficiently,” Duclos’ statement read.

The government will also provide updated guidance on preventing infection, as well as procedures around isolation and case management. Canadians can expect the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to provide additional guidance in the coming weeks as well.

In his statement, Duclos emphasized that the emergence of monkeypox is not the same as COVID-19, which quickly spiralled into a worldwide pandemic.

“I want to re-iterate to Canadians that this is a different situation than we saw ourselves in with the emergence of COVID-19,” Duclos’ statement read. “While global understanding of the monkeypox virus is still evolving, we do have a supply of vaccines, which we will be sure to maintain, and we are working hand-in-hand with our provincial and territorial counterparts to roll out our response plan as quickly as possible.”

In an effort to avoid contracting the disease, Canadians are advised to physically distance from those around them, frequently wash their hands and wear masks in crowded environments.

With files from CTV News and The Canadian Press

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Quebec bill would give Alzheimer’s patients access to medical aid in dying

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MONTREAL — Quebec has tabled a bill that would extend the province’s assisted death legislation to people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said today that Bill 38 would allow people with severe and incurable diseases to consent to an assisted death before they become mentally or physically incapable of doing so.

The bill comes after a special legislative committee recommended last December to expand end-of-life care.

Quebec’s medical aid in dying law requires that patients give written consent to an assisted death within 90 days of the procedure.

Patients with severe Alzheimer’s, however, are usually incapable of offering clear and informed consent and are therefore prohibited under law from accessing medical aid in dying.

Bill 38 was tabled late in the legislative session and will only be adopted before the summer break — and the fall election — if it receives unanimous support from all five parties.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 25, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

The Canadian Press

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