Public health officials announced Tuesday the first presumptive case of novel coronavirus has been detected in B.C., raising questions about how residents can protect themselves.
The patient, a 40-year-old man who regularly travels to China, is currently in isolation at home and lives in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. He had recently travelled to Wuhan city, which is considered the epicentre of the outbreak.
How do health officials test for coronavirus?
It’s considered a “presumptive” case at this point because official confirmation has to be done by a second test at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a news conference Tuesday.
“Our lab here has been in contact with the Winnipeg lab but given the history of travel, the contact that this person had in Wuhan city and the symptoms they were showing, we are confident that this is truly a case of this novel coronavirus,” she said.
“We have good confidence in the testing that’s done here. It’s done based on a genetic test that looks for three different protein areas,” she said. “Then we did a sequencing of the genome that matches exactly to what we know to be the published sequence of the novel coronavirus from China.”
Henry said the sample was on its way to Winnipeg with results expected from the lab in 48 hours.
Does wearing a mask work?
Henry said masks can be very important in “certain situations,” such as healthcare workers wearing them when closely assessing patients or sick people wearing them to prevent the spread of droplets.
“Where it’s not known is how effective wearing a mask in the community is when you are not sick yourself,” she said. “The masks may give you a false sense of security. The most important thing you can do in the community is wash your hands regularly.”
Vancouver pharmacy manager Gianni Del Negro said in a recent interview with CTV News that N95 respirator masks will help protect against viruses, but they need to be worn properly to work. However, he emphasized that it’s not yet known if these types of masks are an effective form of protection against this new coronavirus.
“With this new virus that we’re concerned about, we really don’t know yet. It’s too early to tell whether we can get any protection from that virus with even an N95 mask,” he said.
He also said that surgical masks are not an effective safeguard against the virus but could help prevent the spread of germs.
“Your typical surgical masks that you would see a doctor using in surgery for instance, those are not going to protect you against the virus,” he said. “If you’re someone who’s actually sick, you might have a cold or flu and you want to protect others, that type of mask will protect droplets from going out into the air.”
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of the new coronavirus can vary in different patients, but include body ache, chills, coughing, sneezing, a sore throat and shortness of breath.
Health Canada said a runny nose and headache are common symptoms, as is fever and “a general feeling of being unwell.”
Health officials want anyone who thinks they have coronavirus or is exhibiting symptoms to stay home to avoid infecting other people.
Should I be worried?
Henry said this new coronavirus is not as infectious as other viruses like influenza or measles and that it’s not something that people can get from “casual contact.”
“We know that the receptors for the virus are quite deep in the lungs, so you have to inhale enough of the virus that it can actually bind to those receptors deep in the lungs,” she said. “Coronavirus in general are in larger droplets, so these are droplets that fall quickly out of the air. So you have to be in relatively close contact with somebody to be able to inhale those viruses if they cough or sneeze.”
Henry said some of the most important things you can do is wash your hands regularly, cover your mouth when you cough and stay away from others if you’re sick.
“If you’re touching something that has droplets on it with virus in it, as long as you clean your hands before you touch your face or your mouth, you’re not going to be at risk of getting that virus in your body,” she said. “It’s not something that comes in through the skin. It needs to get into your mucous membranes and breathed into your lungs.”
U of T receives $35 million investment to study high-risk pathogens – The Medium – The Medium
Recently, U of T’s Emerging & Pandemic Infections Consortium (EPIC)—a partnership of several GTA public health institutions—announced that the university received a $35 million investment from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund. The investment, approved on October 4, 2022, contributes to the renovation of the Toronto High Containment Facility (THCF)—a 20-year-old, containment level three research laboratory that allows researchers to study high-risk pathogens—which is in need of modernization.
To gain insight on the THCF, The Medium spoke with U of T Temerty Faculty of Medicine molecular genetics professor, Scott Gray-Owen, who is also the academic director of the THCF and EPIC.
The THCF played a role in isolating the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the first Canadian patients during the Covid-19 outbreak. “This represented one of the first isolations of [SARS-CoV-2] in the world, and definitely the first in Canada. […] It provided us with the seed stock or with the stalk of virus that we could use for research on developing vaccines and immunotherapies and disinfectant technologies,” states Professor Gray-Owen.
“Since [the THCF’s] inception, it’s mostly been focused on pathogens such as HIV and tuberculosis, but also has been involved in response to the first SARS outbreak in 2003, [the] West Nile Virus, and other pathogens that represent a great risk to humans,” explains Professor Gray-Owen, going over the THCF’s research initiatives. He continues, “[The THCF] supports academic research, clinicians, scientific research by government agencies, and [industry] research on high-risk pathogens that we have to keep secure, both for the person working with [them] and for the public and the environment.”
Currently, the THCF is a containment level three facility, thus providing researchers with a laboratory to study high-risk pathogens in the GTA. However, for the THCF to operate safely and securely, strict procedures and regulations must be followed. “The regulatory requirements and the physical requirements of working in this facility are difficult,” says Professor Gray-Owen. Additionally, regulatory requirements for containment facilities are different from what they were 20 years ago, and the aging THCF needs revamping to ensure compliance with current and future regulations.
Professor Gray-Owen contends that the benefits of modernizing the THCF include not only an increased capacity to work with high-containment pathogens, but the possibility for researchers to work on more types of pathogens—many of which the facility is not able to work with right now. He also points out that “The new facility will be double the size of the current facility, but we’ll be able to increase the capacity much more than that.” For instance, the new facility brings together different workspaces that are currently located far apart, making it easier for researchers to study a variety of pathogens.
Furthermore, the new facility will allow researchers to better understand emerging infectious threats before they arrive in Canada or start to spread. “It will allow us to look at pathogens that are problems endemically, or in small regions in the world, which we’re afraid might become bigger problems in the future,” says Professor Gray-Owen.
In a study published November 10, 2022, on the journal of Nature Microbiology, EPIC member Samira Mubareka, clinician scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute and associate professor at U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, was part of a team of researchers who revealed a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in Canadian deer. Professor Gray-Owen states that there are reservoirs in animal populations that allow for pathogens to evolve and create new variants, which can spill over into humans. He addresses the impact of Professor Mubareka’s research by highlighting the concept of One Health, which puts forth that human health is intricately related to the environment and wildlife.
As such, Professor Gray-Owen emphasizes that studying infectious diseases is difficult. “We’re studying two biological systems, we are studying humans or animals and virus or bacteria or fungi in their different biological systems; we are studying them on population levels—the populations of bacteria [and] viruses and populations of humans; and we are studying them from a molecular level or societal level.” Regardless, the modernized facility will allow researchers to work towards future pandemic prevention.
HIV/AIDS progress in Brazil
December 1 is World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness and show support for those living with AIDS or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Treatment of HIV/AIDS has come a long way since the first cases became public in the 1980s.
And Brazil is one country that led the way; its pioneering programs to identify and treat patients recognized the world over.
In recent years, however, the country’s progress has shown to be slipping.
Early RSV season primarily impacts infants
Dear Doctors: What can I do to protect my baby from RSV? What are the symptoms? People are talking about a “tripledemic,” and it has my husband and me worried. We’re both vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19, and we are being super careful when we’re out and about. What else can we do?
Dear Reader: RSV is short for respiratory syncytial virus. It’s a common winter virus that can affect people of any age. In most cases, RSV infection causes mild symptoms similar to the common cold. However, infants and children younger than 2, whose immune systems are still developing, are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill.
RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia in infants and young children in the United States. It is also the leading cause of bronchiolitis in that age group. That’s a lung infection in which the smallest airways become inflamed and swollen, and an increase in mucus production impedes air flow into and out of the lungs.
This year, as with the flu, RSV season has arrived early. Hospitals throughout the U.S. are reporting a surge of serious infections among infants and younger children.
The virus enters the body through the airways and the mucous membranes. It can remain viable on hard surfaces — such as a doorknob, night table or dinnerware — for several hours. It can also persist on softer surfaces, such as a tissue or the skin. Someone can become infected by breathing in the viral particles that remain airborne following a cough or a sneeze, or by touching their mouth, nose or eyes after direct contact with contaminated droplets.
Someone who is sick with RSV typically remains contagious for between four and eight days. However, due to their still-developing immune systems, it’s possible for infants to continue to spread the virus for several weeks, even after symptoms of the disease have abated. There is no vaccine for this virus, and no targeted treatments. Prevention relies on the same precautions you use to avoid any respiratory illness. That is, keep your baby away from people who are ill, avoid close contact with people outside your home and be vigilant about hand hygiene.
Symptoms of RSV arise between three and six days after infection. They can include a runny nose, sneezing and coughing, fever, a decrease in appetite and lung congestion that can cause wheezing. These symptoms tend to be progressive, arriving in stages as the body mounts its attack against the virus. But in very young patients, the first, and sometimes only noticeable, symptoms of RSV can be increased fussiness, a decrease in activity and difficulty breathing.
Treatment for RSV consists of managing symptoms. The specific avenue of care depends on a child’s age, general health and symptoms. In infants, treating RSV includes a focus on adequate hydration and remaining alert for any signs of problems with breathing. The majority of RSV infections run their course in a week to 10 days. Parents of younger infants should check with their pediatricians for guidance on treatment, particularly medications. If your child has difficulty breathing, isn’t drinking enough fluids or has worsening symptoms, call your health care provider right away.
Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to email@example.com, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1955, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.
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U of T receives $35 million investment to study high-risk pathogens – The Medium – The Medium
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