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Coronavirus: Who is most at risk of dying? – Raw Story

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As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across 61 countries hit 86,000 Saturday with nearly 3,000 deaths to date, the profile of those most at risk of dying is coming into focus, experts told AFP.

But the overall mortality rate remains uncertain, they said.

The World Health Organization raised its global risk assessment to its top level Friday, with the global health crisis edging closer to a pandemic.

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Among those infected with the virus, older adults with preexisting heart conditions or hypertension face a sharply higher risk, according to preliminary statistics, including from a study covering more than 72,000 patients in China.

Among a subset of 44,700 infections confirmed through lab tests as of mid-February, more than 80 percent were at least 60 years old, with half over 70, said the study, that was published in the official China CDC Weekly.

Initial reports from outside China are similar, with the first 12 victims reported in Italy mostly in their 80s, and none under 60. Several had known heart problems.

Men in the China study were more likely to die than women by a margin of almost 3-to-2.

But whether that was due to behaviour — notably that most men in China smoke, while few women do — or biological factors, such as hormonal differences, is still unknown.

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One striking finding from the China study is the near absence of cases among children.

The 10-19 age bracket comprised one percent of infections, and a single death. Children under 10 made up less than one percent, with no deaths reported.

“We are still trying to wrap our heads around the deficit of cases among those under 20,” Cecile Viboud, an epidemiologist at the US National Institute of Health’s Fogarty International Centre, told AFP in an interview.

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“Is it because young children are less susceptible than adults, and thus simply don’t get infected? Or if they do, that they have less disease?”

It is surprising infections of very young people are so low, she added, because they tend to be among the hardest hit by almost all respiratory infections — whether viral or bacterial.

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David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, was also mystified.

“Where are the infected children???,” he wrote in an email. “This is critical — perhaps kids are not being tested because they have mild symptoms.”

Another possible explanation is that children in China were out of school for the lunar new year holiday when the virus began to spread widely in January.

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“But young children still live in households where they can be infected by their parents,” Viboud noted.

A lower rate of infection among the youngest age groups was also seen during the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, but was less marked.

SARS, which is also a coronavirus, broke out in Guangdong Province and killed 774 people out of 8,096 infected.

The death of 34-year old Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang in early February, along with several more health workers in their twenties sparked speculation they had died because of repeated exposure, or even sheer exhaustion.

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Li’s death sparked outrage in China because he had been muzzled by authorities for calling attention to the virus.

Cellphone video images on social networks showed nurses and doctors, unable to cope with the caseload, breaking down in hysterics.

“A more likely reason why young clinicians are getting infected is because they were operating outside their level of expertise and training,” John Nichols, a professor in the department of pathology at the University of Hong Kong, told AFP.

“It is noble that the junior doctors pony up valiantly to help, but they most likely would not have had the necessary training in handling infectious patients.”

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The larger question of just how lethal COVID-19 is, remains unanswered.

The ratio of confirmed cases to deaths suggests a mortality rate of 3.4 percent, but several studies have concluded that up to two-thirds of infections in China and elsewhere have gone undetected, which would make the virus far less deadly.

“At the moment, we don’t have a good understanding of the real mortality rate,” Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne told Australian television.

“It is estimated at about two percent.”

With SARS — which killed nearly one in 10 patients — early mortality figures turned out to be underestimates, in part because victims of the virus did not die quickly.

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With the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, however, the opposite happened, said Viboud.

“Within a few weeks of the outbreak, the mortality estimate declined first 10-fold, and then 100-fold, as we moved from severe pneumonia to getting all flu cases.”

“Here, I think we are somewhere in the middle,” she added, saying the current two percent mortality estimate could well decline.

The seasonal flu has an average mortality rate of about 0.1 percent but is highly infectious, with up to 400,000 people worldwide dying from it each year.

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The China CDC study showed that COVID-19 was “mild” for more than 80 percent of confirmed cases.

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First patient in Quebec gets approval from Health Canada for magic mushroom therapy

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MONTREAL — When Thomas Hartle indulges in a session of psilocybin treatment, the end-of-life anxiety, distractions and noises associated with his terminal colon cancer go away.

“Before the treatment, it’s like you’re sitting in your car. It’s summer. You have your windows down; you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic; it’s noisy …. It’s unpleasant,” said Hartle, who lives in Saskatchewan.

“Your favourite song is on the radio, but you can’t actually appreciate any of it because all of the other distractions are preventing you from even noticing that the radio is on. After a psilocybin treatment,(it’s like) you’re still in your car, in traffic, but you have the windows up; the air conditioning is on and it’s quiet. It’s just you and the music.”

Hartle, 54, is one of the very few Canadians to have received legal psychedelics psychotherapy for a mental health condition since Health Canada made it easier in January for health-care workers to access psilocybin — the hallucinogenic compound found in some mushrooms.

In Montreal, meanwhile, a pioneering clinic in the emerging field of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is about to become the first health-care facility in Quebec to legally treat depression with psilocybin.

“It’s a privilege to be able to accompany people in the exploration of their psychological distress and to offer something different than conventional treatment such as antidepressants,” Dr. Andrew Bui-Nguyen, of the Mindspace by Numinus clinic, said in a recent interview.

Bui-Nguyen said his clinic received Health Canada’s approval onMay 5 to care for a patient who had undergone several unsuccessful treatments for depression.

“There’s a rigorous screening procedure,” Bui-Nguyen said, adding that Quebec’s health insurance plan doesn’t cover the treatment. “We look at the diagnosis, the medical history, if there’s a risk of addiction, what treatments have already been tried …. There must have been a lot of treatments done beforehand so the application is solid.”

Health Canada on Jan. 5 restored its “Special Access Program” — abolished under former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013 — allowing health-care experts to request access to restricted drugs that have not yet been authorized for sale in the country.

Before January, people could only access psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy through clinical trials or medical exemptions. Now, licensed experts can file applications on behalf of patients with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, but for whom conventional treatment has failed.

Health Canada says it has received 15 requests for the use of psilocybin or MDMA — a psychedelic drug with stimulant properties — since resuming the program.

In April, a clinic called Roots To Thrive, in Nanaimo, B.C., became the first health centre in Canada to offer a legal psilocybin group therapy program, in which Hartle took part.

“The therapy part has a capital T in this whole process,” Hartle said. “It isn’t just taking psychedelics. It’s just a tool in the process; the therapy is crucial to getting a good outcome.”

Psychedelic-assisted treatment, Bui-Nguyen explained, requires multiple therapy sessions before and after patients experience the drug. Patients will consume psilocybin while they are supervised by two psychotherapists and remain in the clinic-secured environment for up to six hours.

“It’s not miraculous,” Bui-Nguyen said. “You don’t take psilocybin and that’s it, a psychedelic trip and after the depression is cured — no! The patient has a lot of work to do. But it opens perspectives; it creates new paths in the brain that we aren’t used to taking. The patient then explores new roads to get out of depression.”

In the world’s largest study on psychedelics’ affect on the brain, released in March in the journal Science Advances, lead author Danilo Bzdok said psychedelic drugs might just be the next big thing to improve clinical care of major mental health conditions.

“There’s something like a renaissance, a reawakening of psychedelics,” Bzdok, associate professor with McGill University’s biomedical engineering department, said in a recent interview.

He said the evidence-based benefits are very promising. Patients, he said, say they have experienced up to six months of lasting effects after a single psychedelic-aided therapy session. They have also experienced a reduction of symptoms associated with mental health conditions, Bzdok said, adding that there were fewer side-effects compared to antidepressants.

Mindspace by Numinus CEO Payton Nyquvest said psychedelics have the potential to become a widespread treatment. As Health Canada continues to approve more requests, he hopes the recognition will make the treatment much more accessible.

“We haven’t seen significant innovation in mental health care in probably over 40 years,” Nyquvest said in a recent interview.

“We’re at a time where new and better treatments for mental health are needed now more than ever. No matter what you look at, depression, anxiety, and suicidality … these are all rates that continue to go up with no clear line in terms of how we’re going to address these massive societal issues. Psychedelics represent an opportunity to make a significant impact.”

Hartle’s own experience echoed those hopes. “The improvement in my mental health is so night and day that it would be difficult to say all of the things that it does for me,” he said.

“I still have cancer. I still have difficulty with what it physically does, but there are days when I don’t even think about it. What would you do to have a day where you just feel normal?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.

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

 

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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MARS Wildlife Centre closes due to avian influenza – Squamish Chief

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The MARS Wildlife Centre north of Courtenay is closing to the public temporarily after avian influenza was found this week in a small poultry flock in the Comox Valley.

As of Monday, the visitor centre and gift shop will not be accessible to visitors.

“Our commitment to the safety and well-being of our resident ambassador birds (eagles, owls and crows) and wildlife patients is our first priority, and we hope that this additional precautionary measure will help reduce the risk of on-site transmission of the virus,” Gyl Andersen, centre manager of wildlife rehabilitation, said in a statement.

The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society worries that needed donations to operate the centre will drop during the time the centre it is closed, at a time of year when expenses rise.

Andersen is asking supporters to donate to its animal care fund.

It is “baby season” and the influx of injured and orphaned baby birds, raccoon kits, and other small mammals has begun, Andersen said.

The largest expenses at this time of year are food and nursery supplies. Also needed are personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to combat viruses.

The Canadian Food Inspection agency confirmed Wednesday that Vancouver Island’s first case of the H5N1 virus was found in the small flock.

This is the first reported case on the Island, which may have been caused by infected migrating wild birds.

Increased bio-security measures have been put into place to protect birds at the centre, where its wildlife hospital remains open, Andersen said.

Sanitizing footbaths, a separate patient admission building, quarantine zones for different species, and covering the ambassador enclosures are among safety measures implemented.

Anyone bringing an injured animal to the Merville centre must remain in their vehicle and call the hospital at 250-337-2021, extension zero to speak to rehabilitation staff, who will come and collect the animal.

The centre said dead birds can not be brought to the centre. Call the centre for advice. The bird hotline can be called at 1-866-431-2473.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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Rise of acute hepatitis among kids: Find out what is causing it, symptoms to note and all about the role of vaccines – Times of India

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Besides the adenovirus 41, scientists continue to investigate COVID-19 as a potential underlying cause of the rise in recent cases of acute hepatitis in children.

An Indian study conducted by a team of researchers from the Bundelkhand Medical College (BMC), Sagar, Madhya Pradesh and the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Research, Chandigarh found that of 475 children, who tested positive for COVID-19 from April-July in 2021, 37 were diagnosed with COVID Acquired Hepatitis (CAH).

“We observed a peculiar rise in hepatitis cases. Usually, the beginning of monsoon marks a rise in hepatitis cases. Last year (2021) we started to see this in April, or summer, in covid positive children who were part of follow-up. Most of them in fact had recovered from their covid,” said Sumit Rawat, Associate Professor, Microbiology, BMC, and one of the authors of the study.

“Hepatitis A and E are specific to certain villages or regions, B is present through the year and D is usually from a parent or from a blood transfusion. Last year, following the Delta wave we saw these cases from all over the state, defying the usual histories,” he added.

Another recent case study suggested a possible link between liver disease and COVID-19.

The study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition observed a previously healthy three-year-old girl who developed acute liver failure a few weeks after recovering from a mild COVID infection.

Dr. Anna Peters, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the lead author of the study said, “”The patient had liver biopsy findings and blood testing consistent with a type of autoimmune hepatitis which may have been triggered by COVID infection.”

“I think it’s important for physicians to be aware that this is a rare condition that may happen during or after COVID infection. It’s important to check liver tests in patients who aren’t improving as expected,” she added.

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