Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 3, 2022 2:40PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 3, 2022 3:41PM EST
Nicole Corry says she didn’t become a personal support worker to be called a hero. But she never anticipated that she would be villainized as she puts her health and family’s welfare on the line to care for others amid a pandemic.
In the small industrial city of Sarnia in southwestern Ontario, Corry and her colleagues at Bluewater Health hospital are straining every nerve to see their community through the COVID-19 crisis, including those members who target them with pandemic grievances.
This duty of care to every patient, regardless of views or vaccination status, has been a lodestar for hospital staff.
But the COVID-19 surge fuelled by the Omicron variant has put this resolve to the test as health workers contend with accumulated burnout, depleted resources and more staff out sick – compounded by the unsettling sense that some of their neighbours have turned against them.
Corry said her workload has doubled. She shuttles from room to room tending to patients’ basic needs and providing the connection they miss from loved ones, often at the expense of spending time with her own partner and child.
The vast majority of Sarnia’s residents have stood by health workers throughout the pandemic. But Corry said all it takes is a few vocal detractors to dampen flickering morale.
Corry said she’s seen social media posts denigrate the quality of care she and her colleagues provide. She’s been hassled on the way to work over the hospital’s vaccination mandates, then returned to her car to find a flyer calling the policy “garbage” fixed to her door.
“We went from being heroes last year to people literally standing outside the hospital yelling and screaming at us for something we never did,” Corry said.
“If we have community support, it makes it a lot better to come to work. And we don’t need to be thanked…. We just want to be respected and go on about doing our jobs.”
Across Canada, the neighbourhood pots-and-pan symphonies that heralded hospital workers during the first COVID-19 wave have long fallen silent. But as the virus rages on, a new kind of clamour has erupted from a small segment of the population eager to scapegoat health workers for public health restrictions.
“The people who work in our hospitals are not the people who make the policies around vaccine mandates,” said Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association. “They’re the people who are still showing up and caring for Canadians.”
In recent months, health workers across the country have faced escalating levels of intimidation and harassment, including protests, personal threats and violent behaviour by patients in denial about having COVID-19, said Smart.
The Whitehorse pediatrician said these hostilities can be particularly potent in smaller communities where the ties that bind health workers and patients can make the divisions cut that much deeper.
“It’s easier to brush off people who are anonymous to you,” she said. “To see people you live with in your community treating you that way or being that negative is really hard, and I think it does hit closer to home.”
In Sarnia, this dynamic has put health workers on the defensive as tensions over vaccination clash along the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.
At the centre of the fray is Bluewater Health, which with headquarters in Sarnia and a campus in the rural town of Petrolia, serves as the medical hub for Lambton County’s roughly 127,000 residents. It’s also one of the county’s largest employers, alongside the cluster of petrochemical plants known as Chemical Valley.
Many in the community have gone out of their way to support the hospital through donations and public displays of appreciation. But just as Omicron pushed staff to their limits, the cheers were drowned out by a small contingent of protesters spreading anti-vaccine sentiment, said Dr. Michel Haddad, chief of staff at Bluewater Health.
“There’s some fractures in the community. Vaccinated/not vaccinated is becoming politicized, and people are taking out their anger on the wrong people,” he said.
Lambton’s public health unit has reported that 79 per cent of people aged five and up are fully vaccinated, which is one of the lowest rates in Ontario, according to the latest provincial figures.
The Omicron variant hit the Sarnia region early and hard in mid-December, said Haddad, and presaged the surge that would soon slam across the province.
Initially, between 80 and 100 per cent of COVID-19 patients in the ICU were unvaccinated, he said. This cohort continued to take up a disproportionate number of beds as more fully vaccinated people, many of them immunocompromised, were wheeled into the intensive care ward.
Between Christmas Day and Jan. 25, the hospital lost 18 people to the virus, Haddad said.
Health workers don’t treat patients differently based on their immunization status, even if they protested outside the hospital prior to admission, Haddad said.
“Many of the people who might be yelling at us end up needing us, and we treat them just like they’re our own brothers and sisters,” he said.
Emergency physician Dr. Mark Woodcroft said health workers aren’t prone to complaining, but he can see the fatigue on people’s faces as many have taken on extra shifts and cancelled vacations.
Woodcroft said he’s beenwelcomed to work by protesters wielding signs that read “COVID hoax” or “killer vaccine” andpamphlets that purport to contain the “real facts” about the virus.
“It takes a toll on all of us as health-care workers â€¦ to work so hard, trying to save people’s lives, and just to see and hear people doubting about the fact that the virus is real,” he said. “We know how real it is and how devastating it can be.”
Nadine Neve, interim system navigation lead for the Sarnia-Lambton Ontario Health Team, said local vaccination clinics have also run into problems with protesters.
She tries not to let the provocations of a few detract from the outpouring of community support for the immunization effort.
Every time a clinic is launched, Neve said her inbox is flooded with offers from volunteers looking to lend a hand, among them retired physicians who signed up to wipe down chairs between appointments.
But at times, the confrontations can feel personal.
“I remember one day specifically where someone was screaming at me that I was a murderer out in the parking lot,” she said. “And I went home that night, and I thought, no, that’s not what I am.
“It was upsetting that someone would think that when I did not go into health care to harm anyone.”
Neve said she’s worked in other hospitals before but nothing compares to the “family” she’s found in Sarnia. She hopes that spirit will see the community through the collective challenges of the pandemic, even when disagreements arise.
In the last few weeks, Neve said she’s noticed an uptick in people coming in for their first COVID-19 vaccine shot. While she can’t speak to anyone’s motivations, she noted that followed news that a young person had died of COVID-19.
“I see a lot of the signs that are out there that say, ‘My body, my choice,”’ she said. “But it’s always your choice to change your mind too.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2022.
First reported case of a person getting COVID from a cat – Nature.com
First there were sneezing hamsters, now sneezing cats. A team in Thailand reports the first solid evidence of a pet cat infecting a person with SARS-CoV-2 — adding felines to the list of animals that can transmit the virus to people.
Researchers say the results are convincing. They are surprised that it has taken this long to establish that transmission can occur, given the scale of the pandemic, the virus’s ability to jump between animal species, and the close contact between cats and people. “We’ve known this was a possibility for two years,” says Angela Bosco-Lauth, an infectious-disease researcher at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Studies early in the pandemic found that cats shed infectious virus particles and can infect other cats. And over the course of the pandemic, countries have reported SARS-CoV-2 infections in dozens of pet cats. But establishing the direction of viral spread — from cat to person or from person to cat — is tricky. The Thai study “is an interesting case report, and a great example of what good contact tracing can do”, says Marion Koopmans, a virologist at the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The feline finding, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases1 on 6 June, came about by accident, says co-author Sarunyou Chusri, an infectious-disease researcher and physician at Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, southern Thailand. In August, a father and son who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were transferred to an isolation ward at the university’s hospital. Their ten-year-old cat was also swabbed and tested positive. While being swabbed, the cat sneezed in the face of a veterinary surgeon, who was wearing a mask and gloves but no eye protection.
Three days later, the vet developed a fever, sniffles and a cough, and later tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, but none of her close contacts developed COVID-19, suggesting that she had been infected by the cat. Genetic analysis also confirmed that the vet was infected with the same variant as the cat and its owners, and the viral genomic sequences were identical.
Researchers say that such cases of cat-to-human transmission are probably rare. Experimental studies have shown that infected cats don’t shed much virus, and shed for only a few days, says Leo Poon, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong.
Still, Chusri says it is worth taking extra precautions when handling cats suspected of being infected. People “should not abandon their cats, but take more care of them”, he says.
Other animals suspected of infecting people include farmed mink in Europe and North America, pet hamsters in Hong Kong and wild white-tailed deer in Canada. Adding cats to the list “expands our understanding of the zoonotic potential of this virus”, says Poon.
But researchers say these are all rare events and animals don’t yet play a significant part in spreading the virus. “Humans are clearly still the major source of the virus,” says Bosco-Lauth.
WHO warns of monkeypox risk to kids, pregnant people if spread continues – CBC News
The World Health Organization said “sustained transmission” of monkeypox worldwide could see the virus begin to move into high-risk groups, such as pregnant people, immunocompromised people and children.
WHO said on Wednesday it is investigating reports of infected children, including two cases in the United Kingdom, as well as following up reports in Spain and France. None of the cases in children have been severe.
The virus has now been identified in more than 50 new countries outside the countries in Africa where it is endemic. Cases are also rising in those countries, said WHO, calling for testing to be ramped up.
“I’m concerned about sustained transmission because it would suggest that the virus establishing itself and it could move into high risk groups including children, the immunocompromised and pregnant women,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Sustained transmission is characterized by the World Health Organization as an illness that can transmit easily from one person to others in the population.
Monkeypox is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of western and central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it is relatively easy to contain through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.
There have been more than 3,400 cases of monkeypox and one death since the outbreak began in May, largely in Europe among men who have sex with men, according to a WHO tally. There have also been more than 1,500 cases and 66 deaths in countries this year where the disease more commonly spreads.
At least 275 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Canada. Those include 202 cases in Quebec, 67 cases in Ontario, four in Alberta and two in British Columbia.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) declined to comment on WHO’s warning on Wednesday.
Health officials will likely face questions about Canada’s monkeypox response at a media conference scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on Thursday.
Not a global health emergency ‘at this stage’
WHO’s warning comes days after it said the global outbreak of the virus should be closely monitored, but does not warrant being declared a global health emergency.
In a statement Saturday, a WHO emergency committee said many aspects of the outbreak were “unusual” and acknowledged that monkeypox — which is endemic in some African countries — has been neglected for years.
“While a few members expressed differing views, the committee resolved by consensus to advise the WHO director general that at this stage the outbreak should be determined to not constitute” a global health emergency, WHO said in a statement.
WHO nevertheless pointed to the “emergency nature” of the outbreak and said controlling its spread requires an “intense” response.
The committee said the outbreak should be “closely monitored and reviewed after a few weeks.” But it said it would recommend a re-assessment before then if certain new developments emerge, such as cases among sex workers, spread to other countries or within countries that have already had cases, increased severity of cases or an increasing rate of spread.
The UN agency said it was also working on a mechanism to distribute vaccines more equitably, after countries including Britain and the United States suggested they were willing to share their stockpiled smallpox vaccines, which also protect against monkeypox.
Heart Attack Drug Proves Effective at Treating Stroke – Technology Networks
In the largest stroke clinical trial ever run in Canada, researchers have shown Tenecteplase (TNK), a safe, well tolerated drug, commonly used as a clot buster for heart attacks, is an effective treatment for acute ischemic stroke. Led by researchers with the University of Calgary at the Foothills Medical Centre and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, the study included 1600 patients at hospitals throughout Canada.
“It is truly an important finding that I share with my colleagues from coast to coast. Through this collaboration these findings could revolutionize stroke treatment throughout the world,” says Dr. Bijoy Menon, MD, professor at the University of Calgary, neurologist at the Foothills Medical Centre and co-principal investigator on the study. “Tenecteplase is known to be an effective clot dissolving drug. It is very easy to administer which makes it a game changer when seconds count to save brain cells,”
Based on current guidelines, Alteplase (tPA) is the recommended drug for acute ischemic stroke patients. The challenge is that the drug is more complex to administer. It takes up to an hour and requires an infusion pump that needs to be monitored. The pump can be cumbersome when transporting a patient within a hospital, or to a major stroke center for treatment.
“One of the reasons Tenecteplase is so effective is that in can be administered as a single immediate dose,” says Dr. Rick Swartz, MD, PhD, clinician-researcher at the University of Toronto, co-principal investigator, and stroke neurologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “That’s a big advantage, saving critical time and complication. TNK could potentially be administered wherever the patient is seen first, at a medical centre or small hospital,”
The AcT Trial compared TNK to tPA in a randomized trial. The results published in The Lancet show that TNK worked as well as, if not better than, the current recommended drug, tPA. TNK attaches itself to the clot for a longer period of time than tPA which means that blood flow is restored faster and for a longer period of time. Along with discovering a better way to treat acute ischemic stroke, the team also established a more cost effective, and efficient way to conduct clinical trials.
Reference: Menon BK, Buck BH, Singh N, et al. Intravenous tenecteplase compared with alteplase for acute ischaemic stroke in Canada (AcT): a pragmatic, multicentre, open-label, registry-linked, randomised, controlled, non-inferiority trial. The Lancet. 2022;0(0). doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(22)01054-6
This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.
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