Connect with us

Health

COVID, flu and RSV likely mean a challenging winter, says Etches

Published

 on

Ottawa’s medical officer of health is again promoting COVID and flu vaccines as the city tackles a long and challenging respiratory illness season.

Dr. Vera Etches sent her first media statement of autumn Wednesday, going over the “very active respiratory illness season” and offering ways for people to protect themselves and others.

COVID levels have been high in recent weeks, with pandemic trends stable or rising.

As of Tuesday the city had its most active, local COVID hospitalizations (50) since February after a summer with many more COVID patients than the previous two. It reported 31 COVID deaths during October.

Genius Dog 336 x 280 - Animated

Flu cases and test positivity are rising, Etches said, and the city’s first flu outbreak came about a month earlier than normal. There’s also more RSV in the city, putting an unprecedented load on the children’s hospital.

In her previous update in mid-September, Etches said the months ahead may be challenging because of the impacts of respiratory illnesses. Wednesday, she said she predicts it will be challenging.

“This winter will be hard on our community as several respiratory viruses will be circulating simultaneously creating stressors on our community and our health-care system,” she said.

Infectious disease experts explain the challenge

Dr. Fahad Razak, a former head of the Ontario COVID-19 science advisory table who teaches medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the last two flu seasons were tame.

Influenza rates were low because the public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 also helped control the spread of the flu, Razak said, but those measures are no longer here.

“What it means is we have a population that has not been exposed to as much influenza the past couple of years and potentially would be at greater risk for [being] infected this year,” Razak said.

Experts have also watched Australia, which just experienced its worst flu season in the past five years. Australia and New Zealand experience the flu season months before Ontario during North America’s summer.

“They’ve seen a massive surge of cases. If that were to occur here that would seriously challenge our system,” Razak said.

Ontario’s hospital system also needs to plan for a significant surge because a 50 per cent increase in hospitalizations is possible and “not an exaggeration,” Razak said.

“Practically, what is going to happen? I think that is the important question we need to ask ourselves,” Razak said.

Australia’s flu season also suggests it is important to receive your annual flu shot earlier than usual, Dr. Gerald Evans told CBC.

“We knew [the vaccine] was a match in the Southern hemisphere, and at this early stage it looks like a good match in the Northern hemisphere,” said Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University.

Scientists design influenza vaccines months before the flu season. So far, lab testing suggests this year’s vaccine protects against the influenza strains that are most likely to infect a person.

Handwashing a focus again

As Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has done in recent weeks, Etches said people should stay home when they’re sick, see other people outside or in well-ventilated areas, and wear masks in crowded and indoor spaces.

She took pains to say the best way for people to protect themselves and the wider community is to stay updated on vaccinations.

“Our collective efforts can make a difference. I urge everyone to get their fall COVID-19 booster and their flu vaccine,” she said, adding the option of using OPH’s neighbourhood hubs to get COVID and flu vaccines if it’s difficult to use other options.

Once a key part of pandemic safety messaging, and with this cocktail of viruses making the rounds in Ottawa, Etches recommends these types of activities again: washing hands often, not touching your hands, nose and mouth with unwashed hands to keep germs out of your system, and cleaning surfaces such as door handles that are touched often.

Keeping hands clean and not touching your eyes, nose and mouth are among the top recommendations for people to protect themselves against respiratory illnesses such as COVID and influenza. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

“The precautions we took individually to get through previous waves of COVID-19 can and have worked,” she said.

“Now is the time to implement these practices back into your daily routine to keep yourself, your family and those around you healthy.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Health

World AIDS Day brings Red Scarf campaign back to Stratford – Stratford Beacon-Herald

Published

 on


Article content

Stratford’s downtown core will be decorated Thursday with handmade red scarves, a symbol of hope and solidarity on World AIDS Day dedicated to the thousands of Canadians living with HIV and the stigma the virus still carries.

Article content

Over a dozen knitters in the Stratford and St. Marys area contributed nearly 100 scarves to this year’s Red Scarf campaign, a signature event organized by Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) – a Southwestern Ontario charity that supports individuals and communities living with, at-risk for, or affected by HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

Genius Dog 336 x 280 - Animated

Each scarf is a symbol of awareness and compassion that includes on a small tag with more information about HIV and the work RHAC does. 

They’re free to take if you don’t already have one of your own.

“I think it’s important,” said Laurie Krempien-Hall, a local knitter and RHAC volunteer who’s helped organize the annual Red Scarf campaign in Stratford for over a decade. “I hope that (people) look at them, they take one … and wear it with pride.”

Article content

The Red Scarf campaign began in 2012. Since then, volunteers have knit more than 12,000 of them in an effort to raise awareness about the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

“HIV isn’t what it used to be,” said Martin McIntosh, RHAC’s director of community relations education. “Today, people living with HIV today can lead long, healthy lives without passing the virus on to others.”

According to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR), effective HIV treatment can suppress the virus in a person’s system to a point where it cannot be transmitted to sexual partners. HIV can also be prevented by taking a medication.

Despite those advances, however, stigma remains a significant obstacle for people living with and at-risk for HIV. 

“So many people still think it’s something that’s gone away,” Krempien-Hall said. “It’s not gone away.”

“A red scarf is a really easy way to show your support,” McIntosh added. 

A World AIDS Day vigil held in Stratford prior to the pandemic hasn’t yet been revived, McIntosh said, but RHAC’s vigil at London’s First-St. Andrew’s United Church will be steamed live on Zoom for anyone who wishes to take part.

More information about RHAC’s programs and services can be found at redscarf.ca.

cmontanini@postmedia.com 

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Health

Ontario pediatric infectious disease experts urge parents to get kids vaccinated – Cornwall Seaway News

Published

 on


TORONTO — Children five and under in Ontario should be vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza before the holiday season amid surging hospital admissions, infectious disease experts are warning.

In a joint statement earlier this week, experts from four of the province’s pediatric hospitals said vaccinations are a critical tool to help mitigate the effects of a viral season that could prove longer and more severe than years past.

“In the current context of increased circulation of respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza and RSV, optimizing the uptake of both COVID-19 and influenza vaccines in children are of crucial importance, especially before the winter and holiday season,” said the statement from the Hospital for Sick Children, CHEO, the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre and McMaster Children’s Hospital.

Genius Dog 336 x 280 - Animated

Data released by Public Health Ontario shows that as of Nov. 6, only seven per cent of Ontario children aged six months to five years had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and as few as two per cent were fully vaccinated.

The experts said that’s particularly concerning because children aged four and under have a higher risk for hospitalization from COVID-19 than any other group of kids and teens.

The province has not yet released data on uptake for the influenza shot this season.

Several Ontario pediatric hospitals have recently announced they would cut back on surgeries and deploy staff to help backstop overburdened intensive care units and emergency rooms.

Hospital admissions are surging under a triple-threat of respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and COVID-19, at a time when the health-care system was already grappling with record numbers of job vacancies.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Health

Starbucks Partners Come Together for World Aids Day

Published

 on

Join the Starbucks Canada Pride Partner (employee) Network in the fight against HIV and commemorating the lives lost to AIDS-related illnesses on World Aids Day (December 1) and see how we can all take action to uplift our communities.  

The impact of AIDS is felt around the globe in communities and homes near and far. An estimated 38.4 million people worldwide are living with HIV as of the end of 2021 and 650,000 000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in that same year, according to the UNAIDS. Progress is being made, but still four decades into the HIV response, inequalities persist for the most basic services like testing and treatment.

This is why the Starbucks Canada Pride, Black, Pan-Asian and Indigenous Partner Networks are teaming up with I’m Ready to Know, a national program that is implementing, scaling-up and evaluating low-barrier options for access to HIV self-testing and support to everyone in Canada. Starbucks partners (employees) can visit I-AM.health/StarbucksPN to know their status and get access to free and completely anonymous HIV self-testing.

Genius Dog 336 x 280 - Animated

“It is so special to collectively come together as Partner Networks, a vast and diverse representation of the Starbucks partner population, to raise awareness and action about HIV self-testing that is free and confidential, while also encouraging our partners to take their health into their own hands with such an incredible program like I’m Ready to Know. With World Aids Day around the corner, we wanted to show solidarity and demonstrate how our partners are united with the cause.”

Steven Snyder, co-chair of Canada Pride Partner Network

Partner Network Member Spotlight

At Starbucks, partner networks help create connections over shared experiences and values, encourage professional growth, raise awareness of important issues and serve as a bridge between our stores and the communities we serve. Israel (he/him), a three-year partner and member of the Canada Pride Partner Network shares his journey on educating his self and others about HIV.

“I grew up in a conservative and religious environment, and that had a huge impact on my knowledge of sexual health. I had no exposure to LGBTQ or HIV education and there was no one in my community to guide me through the experience of being a queer youth. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto and started as a Starbucks barista that I met partners (employees) who shared their knowledge and experiences with me. My fellow partners pushed me to accept and grow into my own identity and I started to become more comfortable speaking about and educating myself on the topic of HIV.

However, it was earlier this year that I was faced with it head on when I thought I had been exposed to HIV. It was a scary moment and a feeling I will never forget. With this feeling came a lot of anxiety about testing and finding out my status, but I knew I had to overcome my fear. It was this experience that showed me that there was so much for me to learn and understand and how important it is to share my knowledge with others so the stigma around HIV can be broken.

 In my unique experience as a Queer, Filipino man, I find that HIV-related stigma and discrimination are most prevalent in BIPOC communities as many of us are told HIV is ‘the gay disease’ and experience deep-rooted cultural stigmatism. This not only significantly impacts the health, lives and well-being of people living with or at risk of HIV, especially key populations, but also impedes the HIV response in many ways such as testing, treatment, and prevention services.

Advocating and sharing the word regarding HIV prevention has become very important to me. As a person with a negative status, I have the privilege of educating others around me about HIV and AIDS and helping them be ready to know their own status. I wish I had the opportunity to learn, grow, and make mistakes in a safe environment, but now, I am focused on living my wishes by looking out for how I can support other people.  Being a Starbucks partner and having the support of my fellow partners had such a profound impact on me and helped me immensely in my journey, so I hope to continue that legacy with others.

To me, World Aids Day is about uplifting those that are down and giving a voice to those that need to be heard.  The stigma surrounding HIV continues and that’s getting in the way of people leading healthy lives. This is a day to share how important it is to be informed; ignorance comes at a price, and that price can be people’s lives. This is an opportunity for us all to judge less, learn more, and practice empathy.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending