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COVID-19: One new death in twice-weekly Ottawa Public Health update

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25: Ottawa residents in hospital due to an active infection

2: In ICU because of an active infection

83: Confirmed COVID-19 patients in Ottawa hospitals as of Thursday (includes non-Ottawa residents), 45 in hospital because of COVID-19 (8 in ICU) and 38 for other reasons (2 in ICU)

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165: New COVID-19 cases (case numbers are considered underestimates with testing limited to certain groups)

87,953: Total cases

38: Ongoing outbreaks in institutional settings

16.74: Per cent test positivity (seven-day average as of Sunday)

Source: Ottawa Public Health

The current public health situation in Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health reported “high levels” of influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus circulating in its latest snapshot of respiratory virus activity in the capital.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches predicted in December that levels of viral illnesses will likely increase after the holidays.

“Wearing a well-fitted mask is still important when in any crowded and/or indoor public setting – like shopping malls or theatres,” the health unit said last week.

“The same goes for getting your flu vaccine (and) staying up to date on your recommended COVID-19 vaccines.”

How to get vaccinated against COVID-19 (and flu) in Ottawa

Not sure if you’re due for a COVID-19 vaccine or booster dose? Ontario’s Ministry of Health has a new booster dose eligibility checker now online.

People can book COVID-19 vaccination appointments through Ontario’s online portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900, making appointments at participating pharmacies or visiting a Neighbourhood Wellness Hub.

Flu shots are available at more than 250 Ottawa pharmacies. OPH flu shot clinics serve children aged six months to five years and their household members and people without OHIP who couldn’t get the vaccine through pharmacies or health-care providers.

How to get tested and treated for COVID-19 in Ottawa

Ontario pharmacists can now prescribe Paxlovid, an antiviral drug used to reduce severe outcomes from COVID-19 to eligible people at no cost, both in person and virtually.

The antiviral medication is taken orally within five days of symptom onset and is recommended for people at higher risk of COVID-19 complications, including people over 60 and people who are immunocompromised.

People can use Ontario’s COVID-19 online antiviral treatment screener to see if they’re at higher risk of severe illness and might benefit from the medication.

With lab testing in the province prioritized for people at increased risk and in high-risk settings, Ottawa residents can find out who’s eligible and how to book tests and seek treatment at a local care clinic or assessment centre on the health unit’s website.

Families can also check out CHEO’s page on when to go to the emergency department and alternatives to the ED, including local assessment centres and care clinics.

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Respiratory illness peaked in December at Chatham Kent Health Alliance: Suni – Chatham-Kent This Week

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Chatham-Kent Health Alliance officials are reporting a drop in patients visiting the emergency departments with respiratory illnesses between December and January, but admissions from the emergency rooms to the hospitals remain high.

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Caen Suni, the hospital group’s vice president of clinical programs and operations, said patients with illnesses like influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus dropped 50 per cent in January compared to December among children and by one-third among adults.

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“The community is I think essentially working its way through seasonal illness at this point,” he said during a media teleconference Monday.

December also showed a 25 per cent increase over December 2021 for pediatric admissions and of those, 77 per cent were for respiratory illnesses, Suni said.

“That’s impactful and I think that’s what we’ve seen across the health sector in our entire region at this point,” he said.

Suni said the number of people seeking treatment at the emergency departments – which includes patients not admitted – is not “historically high,” but admissions to the hospitals increased in December by three per cent over the previous month.

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This translates to an extra two to three extra patients a day who require a bed. The health alliance also experienced almost 2.5 per cent more admissions in December than any month in the previous year.

However, December also had the lowest daily average of visits to the emergency departments of any month during the Health Alliance’s current fiscal year.

This means a higher proportion of patients require admission to the hospital and patients presenting at the emergency departments are more ill, Suni said.

Since December, the trends are now “pointing towards a decrease,” Suni said, “which we’re thankful for, as the community bounces back from seasonal illness.”

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Deadly fungal infections a concern in patients post-COVID-19, flu | CTV News – CTV News Calgary

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While fungi are not about to start turning the human race into zombies, like in the HBO blockbuster series The Last of Us, the World Health Organization (WHO) says invasive fungal infections are an increasing threat to human health.

Aspergillosis is one fungal infection common in our environment but, in some circumstances, it can turn deadly. In an average day, most of us will inhale hundreds to thousands of Aspergillus spores with no adverse effects, but for people with weakened immune systems it can cause deadly infections. That includes people undergoing cancer treatments, or bone marrow transplants, but it is now recognized that some viral infections, like influenza (flu) and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) increase the risk of deadly fungal infection even in otherwise healthy people.

“When these kinds of things happen in the ICU, it can be devastating because even advanced medicines still can’t treat these infections,” said Dr. Bryan Yipp, an intensive care physician and researcher at the University of Calgary.

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“Once many of these infections really get ingrained and take over, clearing them with medications alone, antifungal or anti microbials, can be very difficult.”

Dr.Yipp began studying Aspergillus — a type of fungus that is a common mould — and its connection to viral infections in 2019, following three deaths in intensive care units of patients initially admitted for influenza, but who subsequently died of the fungal infection.

“It was very much a surprise when people first started identifying the fungus in the lung.  There was a lot of discussion around the table of ICU doctors, infectious disease doctors, asking ‘Was Aspergillosis really the cause of death, or was this just a secondary finding?'” said Yipp. “The pathologists who looked at the samples and the autopsies, were convinced that it was Aspergillosis that was the main problem.”

UCalgary researchers have determined exposure to Aspergillus, a common fungal mould, can lead to a potentially dangerous Aspergillosis infection in people with weakened immune systems.

Working in Yipp’s lab, lead researcher Nicole Sarden, a PhD candidate, isolated the mechanism by which the immune system starts failing to prevent fungal infections.

“In healthy humans. specific immune cells, called B cells, produce molecules (antibodies) that basically tag invaders so that other cells in the immune system, called neutrophils, can recognize them, eat them, and clear the infection,” said Sarden

“But when you have infections with viruses, such as influenza, or if you get COVID, these molecules are no longer present, which means that the immune systems that are trying to eat, and clear the fungi cannot do it because they cannot see it.”

Working with both mice and human blood and tissue samples, the researchers discovered that following a viral infection, neutrophils could identify a fungal infection and surround it but did nothing to destroy it.  

“The virus kills the B cells, no messenger molecules exist, so the neutrophils that would normally attack, the fungus, are blinded. They sit there and don’t know what to do,” said Sarden.

The research team also discovered that reintroducing Aspergillosis reactive antibodies can protect infected mice, leading to hopes a similar treatment will be available in the near future for humans with Aspergillosis infections.

While Yipp and Sarden focused on Aspergillus, it is not the only fungus that can cause serious, or fatal infections. It is estimated fungal infections kill an estimated 1.5 million people worldwide every year. Most of those are due to four different fungi; Cryptococcus, Candida, Aspergillus, and Pneumocystis.  Since the advent of COVID, a previously rare infection of the fungus Mucormycosis has been increasing rapidly in India. It affects the sinuses, brains and lungs of its victims. The rise in Mucormycosis has also been seen in patients who are recovering or have recently recovered from COVID.

Yipp is hopeful the research being conducted at Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine could lead to treatments for these infections as well.

“We have some hunches that that could be a similar mechanism to what we see here with what we have found.” said Yipp. “So we think that this could be applied to multiple different types of fungi around the world.”

The research team, led by Sarden, published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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Barrie hospital declares COVID outbreak in transitional care unit – BarrieToday

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Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), in collaboration with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the Barrie hospital’s transitional care unit on Friday, Jan. 27.

According to RVH, eight patients have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been isolated.

“Enhanced cleaning measures are underway, as well as swabbing of patients and staff,” RVH said in a news release Monday afternoon. 

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Admissions to the unit are on hold at this time, and visitors are not permitted. However, RVH says some exceptions may apply.

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