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Canada's public health agency updates cautions in wake of mysterious virus outbreak in China – Ottawa Citizen



Medical staff members carry a patient into the Jinyintan hospital, where patients infected by a mysterious SARS-like virus are being treated, in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on January 18, 2020.

STR / AFP via Getty Images

The Public Health Agency of Canada has updated an advisory for travelers to Wuhan, China, in the wake of a outbreak of a mysterious virus that has killed two people and sickened dozens.

Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 25, and the number of travelers is expected to increase. The agency said risk to Canadians visiting Wuhan is low, but that precautions should be taken.

At Canadian border points, planned additional measures to be implemented over the coming week include messaging on arrivals screens at the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver international airports; reminding travelers from Wuhan to inform a border service officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms and an additional health screening question to be added to electronic kiosks said the public health agency in a statement

So far this month, two men in their 60s have died of respiratory failure in Wuhan in the outbreak of a pneumonia-like illness. The illness is a new strain of coronavirus, which is in the same family as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Most cases have been linked to the Huanan Seafood Market (also known as Wuhan South China Seafood City and South China Seafood Wholesale Market), which was closed as of Jan. 1 for cleaning and disinfection. However, some cases have not been linked to this market and the source of the virus is still unknown, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Screening measures have been implemented at ports of entry in some neighbouring countries for passengers arriving from Wuhan. There have also been reports of people infected with coronavirus outside of China who had recently traveled to Wuhan.

The health agency’s notice to the Canadian public remains at a Level 1, which advises practising usual travel health precautions, such as routine vaccinations and reminders about the the importance of hand washing. Travelers to Wuhan are advised to take precautions against respiratory and other illnesses while traveling and seek medical attention if they become sick.


Travelers are also cautioned to avoid high-risk areas such as farms, live animal markets, and areas where animals may be slaughtered; avoid contact with animals, alive or dead, including pigs, chickens, ducks and wild birds; to avoid surfaces with animal droppings or secretions on them and to avoid contact with sick people, especially if they have fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

“Spending time in large crowds or crowded areas can increase your risk of getting sick,” according to a travel health notice from the agency, the federal body responsible for public health, emergency preparedness and response, and infectious and chronic disease control and prevention.

In a statement sent in response to questions from this newspaper, the Public Health Agency said the risk to Canadians has been assessed as low because Canada has no direct flights from Wuhan and the volume of travelers arriving indirectly from Wuhan is low. Canada also has a number of standard border measures in place to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases into Canada, said the statement.

When a traveler shows signs and symptoms of an infectious disease upon arrival, Canada Border Services Agency officers or airport and airline staff can contact a quarantine officer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Typically, a border services officer, designated as a screening officer under the Quarantine Act, is the first point of contact and they will conduct a preliminary screening of the traveler based on criteria — such as fever or signs of fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, rash and other symptoms — developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The officer then performs a more detailed assessment by asking additional questions regarding the traveler’s symptoms and confirming information about the traveler’s country of origin and possible exposure to an infectious disease, said the Public Health Agency’s statement. If there is a potential public health risk, the quarantine officer may order the traveler to be transported to hospital, or to report to the local public health authority.

“Entry screening alone is not a guarantee against the possible importation of this new virus but is an important public health tool during periods of uncertainty and part of a multilayered government response strategy,” said the statement.


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'I was shocked': Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Vancouver Is Awesome



WINNIPEG — A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family. 

The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.

Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.

Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.

She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”

Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.

Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five. 

Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.

Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.

“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.

“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”

Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced. 

Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor. 

For Bardarson, that’s not enough.

“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”

Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations. 

She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.

Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.

Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.


The story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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Vaccine makers could make Omicron-specific booster, says Fauci



COVID-19 vaccine makers have contingency plans to deal with the Omicron variant that include a combination vaccine against the original version and the variant as well as a variant-specific booster dose, a top U.S. health official said on Friday.

The U.S. government is working with Moderna, Pfizer, and J&J on multiple contingency plans, infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci told reporters at a White House briefing.

“One is to rev up the production of the vaccines that they already have. The next is to make, for example, a bivalent, where you have the vaccine against both the ancestral strain and the new variant, and the other is to make a variant-specific boost,” said Fauci.

“They are now assuming they may have to do that and are being prepared for that,” he added.

Data from a National Institutes of Health study strongly suggest that existing boosters provide cross protection against a number of variants, including Omicron, Fauci said.

“Although we haven’t proven it yet, there’s every reason to believe that if you get vaccinated and boosted that you would have at least some degree of cross protection, very likely against severe disease, even against the Omicron variant.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with local authorities to investigate suspect cases of the Omicron variant in states other than those where cases have already been reported, Director Rochelle Walensky said at the briefing.

There have been cases of Omicron detected in about 40 countries, she said, but the Delta variant remains the dominant strain in the United States.

“I know that the news is focused on Omicron. But we should remember that 99.9% of cases in the country right now are from the Delta variant. Delta continues to drive cases across the country, especially in those who are unvaccinated,” she said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Dan Grebler)

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FDA adds strict safety warnings on arthritis drugs from Pfizer, AbbVie and Lilly



The U.S. health regulator has added its strictest warning to the labels of drugs from Pfizer, Eli Lilly and AbbVie belonging to a class of anti-inflammatory treatments called JAK inhibitors, citing risk of serious health issues and death in patients 50 and over, the drugmakers said on Friday.

The addition of the warning on the labels follows the agency’s review of Pfizer’s Xeljanz after initial results from a February trial showed an increased risk of serious heart-related problems and cancer in some patients being treated with the drug.

Xeljanz, which brought in worldwide sales of $2.44 billion for Pfizer in 2020, is approved in the United States for the treatment of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ulcerative colitis – an inflammatory bowel disease.

AbbVie’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Rinvoq and Pfizer’s Xeljanz are now recommended for use only in patients, who have had inadequate response or intolerance to one or more TNF blockers, which are another class of drugs used against inflammatory conditions.

The Food and Drug Administration’s boxed warnings on the labels of Rinvoq , Xeljanz and Lilly’s Olumiant flags the risk of cardiovascular death and stroke in high-risk patients who are aged 50 and above, and are current or past smokers.

Additional information about the risk of some types of cancer and death was also added to their labels.

The marketing applications for Rinvoq’s expanded use in atopic dermatitis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and ulcerative colitis remain under review by the FDA, AbbVie said.


(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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