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Canada confirms first ‘community case’ of COVID-19

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TORONTO —
A woman in B.C. has tested positive for COVID-19 despite not having travelled recently and having no known contact with anyone infected with the virus.

Until now, all cases in Canada involved individuals who had recently travelled to countries such as Iran, Italy, Egypt and China or who had close contact with those travellers.

The new case, considered Canada’s first community case, marks the first time that health officials haven’t been able to pinpoint the source of a patient’s infection.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she is “really concerned” that there may be other cases linked to the new community case. A public health investigation has been launched.

“We need to find out the source of her infection. So I expect that we’ll see other people turn positive because of that,” Henry said at a press conference Thursday.

“So there’s likely at least one other person out there who has either had this disease or has this disease, and we need to find them and find their contacts so we can stop any further transmission.”

The development comes one day after Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she and other government officials are anticipating a community outbreak and have prepared for such a scenario.

A community outbreak is when the virus moves beyond initial travel-related transmission and begins to spread freely from person to person. A community outbreak has not been confirmed in Canada, but the first community case suggests that there may be others out there who don’t know they have the virus.

To make matters even trickier, COVID-19 can be difficult to detect, particularly at its onset. About 80 per cent of all cases worldwide are considered mild.

Half of all of Canada’s 46 COVID-19 cases are in Ontario. So far, no community cases have been reported in Ontario — but those can be tricky to detect, according to Dr. Susy Hota, University Health Network medical director of infection prevention and control.

“As far as we know, it’s not out in the community. We’re looking as best as we can. It’s not a perfect thing to try to look for it out in the community, but so far we’ve had no indication of it being in the community in Ontario,” Hota told CTV News Channel on Thursday.

COVID-19 can pass through tiny droplets released when a person coughs or sneezes and typically involves close, face-to-face contact. It can also be passed on from a person who is not exhibiting symptoms.

However, the virus may also be passed when a person touches a surface contaminated with the droplets.

“Those droplets can only travel about two metres in distance before they fall onto surfaces. If you happen to be sitting in that range … the droplets might actually be inhaled or get into your mucus membranes,” Hota said.

“Or it can land onto the surfaces around you, you touch those surfaces — which are contaminated — and then your eyes, nose, mouth, and infect yourself.”

Hota added that it’s not entirely clear how long the virus can live on surfaces.

“It’s likely to be hours. Perhaps days,” she said.

British Columbia’s community case was picked up through ongoing surveillance of patients suspected of having the flu. There are now 21 positive cases of the novel coronavirus in B.C., including one woman who is in hospital in critical condition.

In Alberta, the province reported its first presumptive case of COVID-19 on Thursday. A woman in her 50s from the Calgary area who recently travelled aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship in California has been quarantined since Feb. 28 and is expected to make a full recovery.

Ontario reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, all involving people who had travelled recently. In total, the province has reported 23 cases.

With files from CTV Toronto, CTV Calgary and CTV Vancouver

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Montreal sauna suspected origin of Canada’s monkeypox outbreak: doctors – Global News

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Monkeypox cases in Canada are suspected to have originated from a local sauna in Montreal, doctors have told Global News.

The country’s first two cases were reported by Quebec public health officials on May 19.

Dr. Robert Pilarski, a general physician in Montreal, who treated one of those patients last week, said the individual likely got the virus from a sauna he recently visited.

“He actually got it from G.I. Joe. So this is the suspected epicentre of the epidemic,” Pilarski told Global News.

Read more:

Quebec to start vaccinating monkeypox contacts, confirms 25 cases

Another doctor, who did not wish to be identified, also said the source of Montreal’s monkeypox outbreak was Sauna G.I. Joe.

Government officials have so far stayed clear of confirming the origin of monkeypox in Canada due to concerns of privacy and stigmatization.

“As it was the case with COVID-19, we never confirm publicly outbreaks for both privacy and identification matters,” Jean Nicolas Aubé, a spokesperson for Montreal public health, told Global News in an emailed response.

“Rest assured that we always intervene directly with businesses or settings where an outbreak occurs or where our investigation could lead us,” Aube added.


Click to play video: 'Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine'



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Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine


Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine

Despite multiple attempts and inquiries from Global News about health regulations and tracing measures, there was no response from Sauna G.I. Joe by the time of publication.

Recent cases of monkeypox around the world have researchers scrambling to find out how the virus is spreading in countries that typically don’t see it.

Monkeypox, a rare zoonotic infectious disease, is usually found in certain parts of Africa, where it is endemic.

Read more:

More monkeypox surveillance needed, WHO tells member countries

What started out as a small cluster of cases in Quebec is now being called a “serious outbreak” of the virus by provincial health officials.

As of Thursday, 25 cases have been confirmed in the province and about 20 to 30 suspected cases are under investigation.

The majority of confirmed cases in the province are tied to men aged between 20 and 30 years, who have had sexual relations with other men. There has been one case in a person under 18.

Monkeypox is not considered a sexually-transmitted infection, but the virus can survive on surfaces such as bedding and is transmitted through prolonged close contact.

“It’s not sexual activity as such that transmits it. It’s skin-to-skin contact that transmits it as far as we know at this moment,” said Dr. Michael Libman, a tropical disease expert and professor of medicine and infectious disease at McGill University.


Click to play video: 'Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada'



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Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada


Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada

Stigmatization and transparency

Cases of monkeypox started emerging in Europe earlier this month.

Montreal public health said it had alerted physicians about a week before the first cases were confirmed. It also contacted “local actors” and communicated advice on hand hygiene and environmental cleaning procedures, Aubé said.

According to social media posts, Sauna G.I. Joe hosted a sex party on May 19, the same day Canada confirmed its first cases of monkeypox.

Read more:

Monkeypox likely spread through sex at 2 raves in Europe, expert suggests

During a press conference on Thursday, Quebec public health officials said they do not think it’s necessary to single out locations over fears of “stigmatization,” adding that there are now measures in place.

“The enemy is the virus, not the people affected,” said Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim public health.

However, experts stress that there should be greater transparency and omitting key public health information can be problematic.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says'



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Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says


Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says

David Brennan, research chair in gay and bisexual men’s health at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), believes not disclosing information can have a negative impact on the community.

Hiding information could be interpreted as “men having sex with men is bad,” said Brennan.

There needs to be a culture shift and harm-reduction approach as has been the case in the past with sexually-transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS, added Nolan Hill, gay men’s health specialist at the Center for Sexuality in Calgary, Alta.

“I think it really does speak to this broader culture where we’re uncomfortable with the idea of sex and we’re uncomfortable talking about sex,” he said.


Click to play video: 'What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?'



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What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?


What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?

Outside of Quebec, only one other case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Toronto.

On Saturday, Toronto Public Health (TPH) identified two locations connected to possible cases of monkeypox: Axis Club and Woody’s bar.

Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, said these details matter, especially when it comes to higher risk settings.

“I would argue it is important to identify where it is coming from because if you don’t then people are not in a position to protect themselves,” he said.

Read more:

Physical distancing recommended amid monkeypox spread in Canada, Njoo says

However, disclosing that information comes with the “added responsibility” of not feeding into any prejudice, Bowman added.

Federal public health officials are working to finalize and release guidance on case identification, contact tracing, isolation as well as infection prevention and control.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says this updated guidance will be released in the next few days.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Thursday mass vaccinations are not yet needed, but people can avoid infection by maintaining physical distance, masking and hand hygiene.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing'



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Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing


Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing

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

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Supreme Court of Canada to rule on sentencing for Quebec City mosque shooter

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is slated to rule this morning on the sentencing of a man who went on a deadly shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque.

The high court decision in Alexandre Bissonnette’s case will determine the constitutionality of a key provision on parole eligibility in multiple murder convictions.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder in the January 2017 assault that took place just after evening prayers.

In 2019, Bissonnette successfully challenged a 2011 law that allowed a court, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder.

A judge found the provision unconstitutional but did not declare it invalid, ultimately ruling Bissonnette must wait 40 years before applying for parole.

Quebec’s Court of Appeal struck down the sentencing provision on constitutional grounds and said the parole ineligibility periods should be served concurrently, meaning a total waiting period of 25 years in Bissonnette’s case.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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‘Always hope’: Remains of Cree woman sent home to Alberta decades after disappearance

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Violet Soosay’s search for her missing aunt began four decades ago.

The pursuit took her to parts of Alberta and B.C. and down paths of uncertainty as weeks, months and years passed without word of Shirley Ann Soosay.

On Friday, about 43 years after she was last heard from, the body of Shirley Ann Soosay is expected to be returned to her home community of Samson Cree Nation, south of Edmonton.

Her remains had been buried in a California cemetery in 1980 under the name Kern County Jane Doe. Last spring, the county sheriff’s office identified the remains as belonging to 35-year-old Soosay.

Violet Soosay has worked since then with the county coroner’s office and the California cemetery to transport the body back to Alberta.

“Now there’s closure. There’s healing that can start happening,” Violet Soosay said in a phone interview.

The website for the American non-profit group DNA Doe Project says the Jane Doe’s body was found in an almond orchard near Bakersfield, Calif., in July 1980. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed.

Wilson Chouest was convicted of killing the Jane Doe, along with another unidentified woman in 2018.

Violet Soosay said she last saw her aunt in 1977 at a family funeral. She remembers her as caring, supportive and a free spirit.

“That was my constant memory that I kept because it gave me that sense of connection,” she said.

Shirley Ann Soosay was close with her mother and had maintained regular  contact with her, whether it was through holiday cards or letters, said Violet Soosay. The last correspondence came in 1979.

“After that, she just disappeared. Nobody knew. My grandmother was very frantic and heartbroken. She knew something happened.”

A few years later, Violet Soosay said she promised her grandmother she would bring Shirley Ann Soosay home. Her grandmother died in 1991.

In early 2020, Violet Soosay said she came across an artist’s rendering of the Jane Doe on a Facebook post from the DNA Doe Project. She believed the woman was her aunt.

The volunteer organization formed in 2017 to help identify unidentified deceased persons using forensic genealogy. The Kern County Sheriff-Coroner Division contacted the project in 2018 hoping to determine the identity of its Jane Doe.

Dawn Ratliff, the coroner division chief, said her office set up tip lines and worked with media to broadcast stories hoping to identify the woman, but every effort led to a dead end.

“In all the years that we had her, we never received a single inquiry. And at that point I just knew she wasn’t local. But I just didn’t know where she would be from.”

Ratliff said when she eventually heard from Violet Soosay, she asked her to submit a DNA sample. It was processed and compared to DNA they had from the remains. The two were a familial match.

Violet Soosay said that when she got the call with the results, she was flooded with years of emotions, including frustration, anger and elation.

“It was a crazy moment when I found out that she was my aunty.”

The family is planning to bury Shirley Ann Soosay in a cemetery at Samson Cree Nation.

Violet Soosay said bikers are supposed to follow her aunt’s casket from a funeral home in Wetaskiwin to her final resting place. There will also be a wake with traditional drumming.

Before the body was disinterred in California, the Tule River Tribe performed a ceremony there with prayers and drumming, added Ratliff.

“To be able to restore her name has really been tremendous,” she said.

Violet Soosay said she is grateful for the support and work of Ratliff, investigators and those involved with confirming the identity of her aunt’s remains.

She said she also has a message for Indigenous families with missing loved ones: “There’s always hope. There’s always some way to bring them home.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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