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First COVID-19 'outbreaks' reported at two local farms today – OrilliaMatters

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Four more cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Simcoe County and one in Muskoka District today. 

Three cases have been reported out of Bradford-West Gwillimbury. Yesterday the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported eight new cases out of Bradford, but two of them have been transferred to other health unit districts due to their primary residence address. 

The Bradford residents reported today are all female, two in their 30s and one in her 50s. All the cases are reported as community-acquired.

The other Simcoe County case reported today is a woman in her 60s from Adjala-Tosorontio. The Muskoka case is a man in his 60s from Hunstville.

Two of the Bradford cases reported yesterday, an Innisfil case reported yesterday, and the Adjala-Tosorontio case reported today are all deemed workplace-related transmission.

This is a new designation from the Simcoe Muskoka health unit, and, in this case, is related to outbreaks on two unnamed farms in Simcoe County. 

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the region, said one farm has a confirmed nine cases in workers and the second farm has confirmed three cases. Of all the cases, four are residents of Simcoe Muskoka region, so only four of the cases are included in the health unit’s list of COVID-19 cases. 

Gardner said all the farm workers have or are being tested. He said the health unit will not be releasing the name or location of the farm as he does not consider naming the farms as necessary for public health safety. 

Gardner did confirm some positive tests include migrant farm workers, although of the eight that have been identified as living out of the Simcoe-Muskoka jurisdiction, it wasn’t clear how many of those are temporary foreign workers.

“We are conducting an investigation. We have been there on site,” said Gardner.

Community, home care as well as paramedicine staff have been to the farms to conduct swab tests onsite. So far, there have been 42 negative results.

The second farm was first identified on June 14 and then declared an outbreak on Tuesday with three people testing positive, one originating from another jurisdiction.

Health unit staff members are now investigating the farm and testing other staff members.

While Gardner wouldn’t identify the farms or their locations, he did say both employ fewer than 100 workers.

“I am concerned about farm outbreaks here given the experience elsewhere in the province,” said Gardner, who said he has been in contact with the medical officer of health in Windsor-Essex.

A large migrant worker population in that area has fallen ill with COVID-19, and two relatively young men who have died. 

Gardner said that many who work in the farming sector can be quite vulnerable to this infection, and he’s concerned that those conditions could lead to many more cases. 

“I am well aware of the large number of farms that have been affected, the large number of farm workers that have been infected” in southern Ontario, he said. “Therefore it is a dangerous situation that we have to manage diligently and carefully.”

Gardner said health unit staff are looking into whether workers on the affected farms also work on other farms, creating the potential for it to spread. And although that is a possibility, Gardner said the health unit doesn’t yet have evidence of that happening.

The health unit has confirmed a total of 527 COVID-19 cases in the region to-date and 442 of those people have recovered. 

There have been 36 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the region. There are currently 47 active cases of COVID-19 in Simcoe County including five people in hospital (two in intensive care). There are two active cases of COVID-19 in Muskoka District.

Case breakdown by municipality

MunicipalityTotal casesRecoveriesDeathsHospitalizedLast case reported
Barrie16414214 June 11
Bradford W-G11690121June 16
New Tecumseth554612June 15
Innisfil4236 1June 15
Orillia171421May 21
Collingwood1515  May 19
Wasaga Beach14131 June 8
Clearview861 June 15
Springwater1281 June 11
Midland66  April 29
Oro-Medonte642 June 1
Adjala-Tosorontio97  June 16
Essa14121 June 5
Ramara87  June 15
Tiny33  May 14
Tay55  May 19
Penetanguishene64  June 12
Severn66  June 2

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Kelowna councillor says outbreak a reminder we are not out of the woods – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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“This is a wake up call.”

That was the reaction of Kelowna city councillor Ryan Donn upon hearing news at least eight people have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending private gatherings and visiting downtown restaurants and bars over a 12-day period.

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” said Donn.

“There’s still social distancing needed. We still need to wash our hands.”

According to Interior Health, those infected may have attended gatherings in downtown Kelowna and along the waterfront from June 25 to July 6.

Interior Health is advising anyone is the area during those days may have been exposed.

“We have all these guidelines in place in Phase 3. We don’t want to go back to Phase 2,” said Donn.

“And, there were six people from outside our boundaries, and now they’re going back to where they came from.”

The identities of the restaurants and pubs visited by the eight people infected are not being identified by Interior Health at this time.

Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema said the health authority doesn’t yet have a complete list, and don’t want to create a false sense of security.

“We don’t have evidence that the cases got the disease at these businesses, only that they were there while sick,” she said in a release to Castanet News.

Donn says if you look at a map of Canada then the United States, there’s some pride in the fact we have done as well as we have in Canada.

“That comes from taking action and listening to the professionals, and we don’t have politicians disagreeing. They’re all agreeing,” he said.

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COVID-19 in B.C. alert: Eight infected individuals from Lower Mainland and Alberta attended events in Kelowna – Straight.com

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A large-scale potential COVID-19 exposure incident spanning several days in British Columbia’s Interior, involving individuals from outside the region, has prompted a public notification.

Interior Health issued a news release today (July 10) to alert anyone who attended gatherings in Kelowna’s downtown and waterfront areas from June 25 to July 6 that they might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Eight individuals who have been tested positive for COVID-19 had attended private gatherings and visited various businesses in Kelowna, including restaurants and bars, within that time frame.

In addition, health officials are especially concerned about Canada Day and holiday weekend events.

Interior Health stated that six of the infected individuals live outside of the Interior Health region, and CBC News reported that some of the individuals were from the Lower Mainland and Alberta.

Contact tracing is currently being conducted and public health team members will inform any known contacts to isolate for 14 days.

Due to the number of locations and cases involved, anyone who attended any events on those dates is asked to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, breathing problems, loss of sense of taste or smell, fatigue, body aches, runny nose, diarrhea, headaches, sore throat, red eyes, or vomiting.

Anyone who develops symptoms should immediately self-isolated and contact healthcare providers or Interior Health testing centres to arrange for testing.

Interior Health is working with other jurisdictions to determine what the source of the outbreak is.

Over this past week, new daily case counts in B.C. have steadily increased, from seven cases on July 6 to 25 cases today.

Recent public exposure incidents have taken place at three nightlife venues in Vancouver while cases have been confirmed at a McDonald’s in Surrey, a gym in Burnaby, and flights to and from Vancouver. 

Although travel-related businesses have been reopening in B.C. as part of the province’s Phase 3 of its reopening plan, many communities remain concerned about the possibility of travellers bringing the coronavirus into their regions.

The Haida Nation is opposing the reopening of two luxury fishing lodges reopening without their consent, as they have stated that even one case of COVID-19 could be devastating to their communities due to limited healthcare services and only two ventilators available. 

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Why it may be harder to catch COVID-19 from surfaces than we first thought – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


Disinfecting groceries, wiping down packages, cordoning off playgrounds. 

While those approaches to avoiding COVID-19 infection became commonplace early on in the pandemic, the virus may not transmit as easily on surfaces as was originally thought — and experts say it may be time to shift our focus on how we protect ourselves.

To date, there have been “no specific reports” of COVID-19 directly from contact with contaminated surfaces, even though research consistently shows the virus can survive on them for several hours or days, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

The update was part of a new scientific brief released by the UN agency outlining its stance on how COVID-19 spreads, after an open letter from more than 200 experts to change its messaging on the possibility it transmits through the air.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence on surface transmission, the WHO still maintains  contaminated surfaces – also known as fomites – are a “likely mode of transmission” for COVID-19.

Surfaces ‘not a significant risk’ for COVID-19

But experts from a variety of disciplines aren’t convinced, and some warn the focus on surfaces has been overblown.

Emanuel Goldman, a microbiology professor at the New Jersey Medical School of Rutgers University, said in an article published in The Lancet journal earlier this week that the risk of COVID-19 infection from surfaces is “exaggerated.”

“This is not a significant risk,” he told CBC News. “Not even a measurable risk.”

Goldman said the evidence for infection from surfaces was based on lab experiments that were unrealistic when compared to real life situations and used extremely large amounts of virus to test if it could survive over extended periods of time.

Linsey Marr, an expert in the transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech who has studied the survival of COVID-19 on surfaces, said that while it’s possible people could get infected from surfaces, it’s still unclear if it’s actually happening.

Restaurants with patios, shopping malls and hair salons are among the businesses allowed to reopen as Toronto begins phase two of a stepped return to pre-COVID-19 operations on June 24, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“I think the thinking has changed,” Marr said, adding the perceived risk of transmission from contaminated surfaces is lower than it was earlier in the pandemic when not much was known about the coronavirus.

She said in order to be infected with COVID-19 from a surface, a person would have to transfer it to their fingers where it would need to survive long enough to enter the body by touching the eyes, nose or mouth. 

“We know that virus can survive [on surfaces] and then the question is, can people pick those up and transfer them into their respiratory tract?” Marr said. “You have to have a lot of virus on there to cause infections.”

The average person infected with COVID-19 also isn’t typically shedding large amounts of the virus at any given time, noted infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“Viruses aren’t that environmentally hardy,” he added.

“They’re built to infect humans. They’re built to infect cells. As soon as they leave the human host and enter the environment, they become more and more unstable.”

Watch | Are you safer from COVID-19 indoors or outdoors?

Andrew Chang asks an infectious disease doctor whether it’s safer to be indoors or outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic. 1:02

Eugene Chudnovsky, a professor of physics at the City University of New York whose research has focused on the spread of the virus, said the threat of infection from a surface like a doorknob really depends on the conditions to which it was exposed.

“If there are just a few people touching it in an hour, it’s very unlikely it will contain the infective dose of the virus,” he said.

“But if this is a door that is getting opened every few seconds for a lengthy bit of time and there is a significant number of symptomatic infected people who are touching it during a few hours, it can accumulate a significant amount of the virus.”

Disinfecting surfaces ‘not as necessary as we thought’

One of the reasons the evidence for COVID-19 infection from surfaces is lacking is because it’s difficult to track through contact tracing.

“You can start asking people about conversations they had and places they were, but when you start asking them about surfaces they’ve touched, it gets much, much harder to really pin it down,” said Erin Bromage, an associate biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth who researches infectious diseases.

“They’re probably associated with a few percentage of transmissions, probably at the highest, which is a lot lower than what we find say for influenza – but it seems to be not a major driver with this particular pathogen.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada maintains it is “not certain how long COVID-19 survives on surfaces,” and says the risk of infection from things like packages is low. It does, however, still list contaminated surfaces as a common route of infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines on surface transmission of COVID-19 in May, saying it “may be possible” a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it but it’s not “the main way the virus spreads.”

“There’s just a growing narrative that the degree of transmission through fomites is probably less than what was earlier anticipated,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital.

“The vast majority of transmission seems to be through close contact with an infected individual, primarily in an indoor setting.”

He said the change in thinking around the risk of COVID-19 infection from surfaces means that the average person’s groceries are probably much less of a threat than a visit to the grocery store.

“It reinforces hand hygiene, but it also tells us that the need to disinfect every surface that comes into the house is probably not as necessary as we thought it was earlier on in the pandemic,” he said. “It’s not hurting anybody, but it’s just not necessary.”

WATCH | How to handle your groceries during the COVID-19 outbreak:

The coronavirus can live up to several days on some surfaces, but experts say there’s no reason to worry about the groceries you bring home. CBC News shows you how basic hygiene will keep you safe from your groceries. 1:36

Bromage, who wrote a viral blog post in May shared by millions explaining the places people are most at risk of COVID-19 infection, said the risk of transmission from surfaces on things brought into the home is “quite low” in countries like the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s probably something to be aware of,” he said, “but something that we don’t need to focus a lot of anxiety and attention on.”

Chagla said the initial focus on surface contamination also sparked a common practice that could be downright harmful: wearing latex gloves while running errands or shopping.

Discared gloves are pictured at North York General Hospital on May 26, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“Going to the grocery store wearing a pair of gloves is probably not the cleanest thing to be doing,” he said.

While health-care workers and food service staff wear gloves for infection control reasons, Chagla stressed they’re used for specific purposes, and short periods of time.

Wearing gloves for extended stretches while touching various objects can lead to cross-contamination the longer you’re wearing them, he said, which winds up being less helpful than just washing or sanitizing your bare hands regularly.

‘Misinterpretation’ of data

For parents of young children who are concerned about the risk of COVID-19 infection from surfaces like playgrounds, which have been off limits in cities like Toronto for months, the lack of evidence is no doubt frustrating.

Marr thinks the guidance on children avoiding playgrounds has been “misguided” throughout the pandemic.

“Playgrounds are probably one of the safer places for kids to congregate, if they have to congregate,” she said. “And the reason why is that sunlight kills off the virus pretty effectively. So if it is on surfaces, I don’t think it’s going to last very long.”

Chagla said at this point in the pandemic, there’s no “good reason” why playgrounds should remain closed, given the combination of sunlight and open-air ventilation making them a relatively low-risk activity.

Marr said the real risk of infection from playgrounds is largely from kids who are in close contact with each other, not from the surfaces they’re interacting with.

Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Wednesday that officials are weighing the evidence on infection in children, but that the risk seems low. 

Caution tape is wrapped around a swing set at a playground in Regina on June 10. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

“From the science, what we know is that certainly young people, children, are less likely to have more severe consequences if they do get infected with the virus,” he said.

“It also appears that in terms of transmission, young children — at least in some of the studies i’ve seen — do not appear to be as efficient or effective in terms of transmitting the virus to others.”

Goldman said misguided policy decisions from governments and businesses pushed him to speak out about the lack of evidence for COVID-19 risk from surfaces.

“The problem is the public policy was driven by this misinterpretation of the data,” he said.

“It’s not that the data were wrong, but they were not the right data. It was not data that applied to the actual situations that are relevant.”

Goldman said these policy decisions can be “counterproductive” because they can “dilute” effective prevention measures like physical distancing and wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s actually harmful to have the wrong interpretation of the data,” he said. 

“I think it’s time to say the emperor has no clothes.”


To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.

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