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Canadian doctors urge caution on repurposing malaria medication to fight COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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Canada’s top public health doctor warned against using malaria medication to treat COVID-19 on Monday, after U.S. President Donald Trump touted the option during a recent news conference.

People have taken chloroquine to prevent and treat malaria for decades. A related medication called hydroxychloroquine is mainly used to treat inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19. People in more than 180 countries have been sickened by the respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus humans have no immunity against.  

Last week, Trump told reporters hydroxychloroquine had shown “very, very encouraging early results.” But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was also quick to say that officials are trying to strike a balance between making the potential therapy available to physicians to use on seriously ill COVID-19 patients on an emergency basis while ensuring it is truly safe and effective through clinical trials. 

On Monday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, added her own cautions.

“My message is that you should not take medication without the scientific evidence,” Tam said. “It can be quite dangerous. These drugs are not without side-effects. In fact, there are quite significant side-effects.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) is running a research network called Solidarity that has identified a “vast suite of potential drug therapies and combinations” that could be repurposed to treat COVID-19.

Tam said part of Canada’s participation in the network includes making sure patients will receive drugs in the most scientific and safest way possible. 

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, leaves a news conference Monday after cautioning against taking medications touted for COVID-19 treatment that aren’t backed up by solid scientific evidence. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, is writing a review on the safety of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. 

Trump suggested using hydroxychloroquine together with an antibiotic based on the results of a small study by French researchers. 

Juurlink said that study involving just 36 patients is the extent of the human research so far on using hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment for COVID-19 — research with “so many holes you could drive a truck through it,” he said. 

Normally, an antibiotic is never recommended to treat a virus. But the antibiotic and antimarlarial combination has off-target effects beyond what it was designed to do, infectious disease experts say.

Juurlink said he’s concerned about possible toxic overdoses from chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and side-effects such as:

  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Low blood sugar.
  • Mood changes and psychosis.

“These are not drugs to be toyed with,” Juurlink said.

The only way to tell if a treatment really works is to randomly assign a large number of patients to either take it or a placebo. Even then, rarer side-effects may not crop up until years later, once more people have taken the medication.

In the U.S. and Canada, doctors and pharmacists said hoarding hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 could hurt others, such as those who take the drug long term to keep chronic inflammatory diseases like lupus under control.

Pharmaceutical companies in Canada and worldwide are donating hydroxychloroquine to help medical researchers collect high-quality data on the safety and effectiveness of using the medication to treat COVID-19.

Trial to protect hospital staff

Dr. Kevin Kain is an infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital, where he’s part of a team of researchers designing a randomized placebo-controlled trial into the safety and efficacy of using hydroxychloroquine prophylactically to prevent COVID-19 infection. Their goal is to protect front-line health-care workers in emergency departments and intensive care by preventing the infection from taking root. 

“This seems like the appropriate, high-risk group to establish that it works,” Kain said. “Right now, people are using it without good evidence. I was around long enough to remember SARS, where a number of treatments were tried without appropriate trials, and in retrospect, a lot of those things actually caused harm.”

An undated electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. Chloroquine seems to facilitate entry of zinc to kill the virus. (NIAID-RML via AP/The Canadian Press)

In the lab, chloroquine works by suppressing the growth of coronaviruses such as SARS and  SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the French researchers said.

“It isn’t entirely clear, but there’s intriguing evidence that if you can get high levels of a mineral called zinc … inside a cell that’s infected, it will inhibit replication of coronaviruses,” Kain said. “Taking a lot of zinc by mouth doesn’t do this because getting zinc into a cell is tightly regulated. Chloroquine seems to facilitate it getting into the cell.”

Elsewhere in the world, Doctors Without Borders is preparing to treat patients with COVID-19, potentially with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. The medical charity operates in more than 70 countries.

Jason Nickerson, humanitarian affairs adviser for Doctors Without Borders in Ottawa, said if a treatment stops the severe illness from COVID-19, then it would be incredibly beneficial, particularly in countries with less resourced health systems.

“How do we get these new technologies, once they’re developed, to patients in all countries, everywhere?”

He called on governments worldwide to apply policies to ensure technologies like drugs that are developed with public funds remain affordable and globally accessible, since in a pandemic, the virus needs to be stamped out everywhere to protect people everywhere. 

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Got COVID-19 symptoms? Avoid snuggling with Fluffy and Fido, experts advise – CTV News

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Canadians who are sick with COVID-19 or suspect they have the virus are being warned to be careful around their pets and other animals.

“COVID-19 virus infections have become widely distributed in the human population. In some rare circumstances, some animals have become infected through close contact with infected humans,” says a statement on the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association website.

The association points out that there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19 and that human outbreaks are driven by person-to-person contact.

But as a precautionary measure, it refers to recent recommendations from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which say anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or those who are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case should follow similar recommendations around pets and livestock as they would around people.

That includes avoiding close contact with animals, good handwashing and avoiding coughing and sneezing on animals. It also means limiting your animal’s contact with other people and animals outside the household, and if possible, have someone else in your home care for your animals.

“Scientists are still trying to understand if and how (COVID-19) affects animals. This is an area that continues to be studied,” the CFIA website says, citing the World Organisation for Animal Health.

The organisation says on its website that evidence suggests COVID-19 emerged from an animal source, and that genetic sequence data shows it is a close relative of other coronaviruses in horseshoe bat populations.

But it says to date, there is not enough scientific evidence to identify the source or to explain the original route of transmission from an animal source to humans.

“Currently, there is no evidence that companion animals are playing a significant epidemiological role in this human disease,” the organization’s website states.

“However, because animals and people can sometimes share diseases (known as zoonotic diseases), it is still recommended that people who are sick with COVID-19 limit contact with companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus.”

The Saskatchewan government said Sunday that anyone with COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals.

“If there is already an animal in the household, that animal should remain in isolation along with the patient,” a provincial news release said.

The Bronx Zoo announced Sunday that one of its tigers tested positive for the new coronavirus. The four-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia – and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill – are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee who wasn’t yet showing symptoms, the zoo said.

Despite warnings to avoid animals, the CFIA notes that if you’re not showing COVID-19 symptoms or self-isolating, taking walks with pets and spending time with them is still beneficial for both of you.

“Pets contribute to our overall happiness and well-being, especially in times of stress,” the agency’s website says.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2020.

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Coronavirus: Woman explains day-by-day symptoms of COVID-19 – 'literal fire in my lungs' – Express

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“Now, I can really understand and support the seriousness of just staying home, and not spreading this.

“It truly affects every person differently, and I consider myself to be very lucky to have it only last a couple of weeks, and some people it’s very mild, and some people die. You just don’t know, it’s literally a roll of the dice.

“So, if anything I can just say please stay home.

“I’ve done it. It’s like 22 days now, and I’m actually cool. It’s all good.”

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LFP's providing unlimited access to our COVID-19 coverage. Here's the latest: April 6 – The London Free Press

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The social and economic response to the coronavirus threat is changing by the hour in Southwestern Ontario and across Canada. Here is a rundown of our latest coverage on the London-area fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic

The social and economic response to the coronavirus threat is changing by the hour in Southwestern Ontario and across Canada. Here is a rundown of our latest coverage on the London-area fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic:

ICYMI: News from the weekend:

CORONAVIRUS CASES: THE NUMBERS

(*Figures for Southwestern Ontario as of Sunday, April 5, 2020 at 5 p.m.)

  • Ontario: 4,038 cases; 119 deaths
  • London and Middlesex County: 134 cases; five deaths
  • Oxford and Elgin counties (combined): 21 cases; two deaths
  • Brant County: 46 cases; one death
  • Chatham-Kent: 12 cases; one death
  • Sarnia-Lambton: 79 cases; eight deaths
  • Huron-Perth: 17 cases; one death
  • Grey-Bruce: 21 cases; no deaths
  • Windsor-Essex: 184 cases; three deaths
  • Regional case total: 514
  • Regional deaths: 21

[embedded content]

COVID-19

Each day we will have a rundown of our latest coverage on the London-area fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for breaking news and updates as they happen. Email lfp.website@sunmedia with any cancellations or stories. For more local and national stories go to: lfpress/tag/coronavirus

Got a coronavirus question? Submit to Curious London


Here’s our LFP COVID-19 day-by-day coverage:

 Curious London

These are unprecedented times. So we’re adjusting our newest project, Curious London, to focus solely on questions you may have about COVID-19 and how it has already or soon may affect you. We’ve gathered up your questions and provided some answers:

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