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Get your flu shot, officials urge, as flu season claims two lives in London – The Sudbury Star

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Public health officials are urging people to get their flu shot after this year’s flu season in the London area claimed its first lives.

(Postmedia Network)

Public health officials are urging people to get their flu shot after this year’s flu season in the London area claimed its first lives.

Two flu-related deaths were reported to the Middlesex-London Health Unit between Dec. 15 and Jan. 4.

Between those dates, the health unit has seen 44 lab-confirmed cases of Influenza A and 23 cases of Influenza B.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit tracks flu cases each winter starting Sept. 1. The health unit says local flu activity has increased over the last three weeks.

Since Sept. 1, 28 people in the London area have been hospitalized for the flu, the health unit said in a report made public Wednesday. Twenty-three of those hospitalizations have happened since Dec. 15.

Vaccinations against the flu are publicly funded and are available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

“Local residents are encouraged to get their seasonal influenza vaccine as soon as possible, since it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide protection,” the health unit report stated.

In its latest flu surveillance report, the London area health unit recommends people take precautions to avoid illness, including washing their hands frequently, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering their coughs and sneezes and staying home when they’re sick.

By the same point in the 2018-19 flu season, an unusually mild year for flu in London and Middlesex County, no deaths were reported by the local public health authority.

In the 2017-18 flu season, the health unit reported four flu-related deaths between Sept. 1, 2017 and Jan. 6, 2018.

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Six Vaccines Show Promise as Boosters, Led by Pfizer and Moderna – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — A U.K. study testing seven different Covid-19 vaccines as booster doses found most of them increased antibodies, with shots from Moderna Inc. and the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE partnership performing best.

The results, published Thursday, tested the vaccines in more than 2,800 volunteers 30 and older who had already received two doses of the AstraZeneca Plc or Pfizer shots. All seven vaccines boosted immunity after the Astra vaccine, compared with a placebo, while six raised antibody levels after Pfizer, the study found.

Still, there were large variations between the antibody and cellular immune responses of the different vaccines, with the biggest boosts seen from the messenger-RNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Antibody levels were measured four weeks after the booster was given. 

It’s unclear how many doses of the vaccines will be needed to provide the longest-lasting protection, or whether yearly Covid shots will be required, but the level of antibodies induced by a number of the vaccines wanes after a few months, pushing the case for boosters. With the new omicron variant spreading, countries are looking to protect their populations as quickly as they can.

The Valneva SE vaccine, which performed well in trials but hasn’t yet been authorized for use, was the only shot that didn’t increase antibody levels after two doses of Pfizer compared with a placebo, though the vaccine was only tested in about 100 people. The study found all seven shots were safe to use as third doses.

Other Vaccines

The other vaccines tested were from Johnson & Johnson, CureVac NV and Novavax Inc. The shots were given 10 to 12 weeks after a second dose of either the Astra or Pfizer vaccines.

Early results from the study were used to inform Britain’s initial booster program in September, which was focused on older people and relied on the Pfizer and Moderna shots as third doses. The U.K. expanded the rollout of boosters to all adults this week in light of the new omicron variant, and cut the time from six months after a second dose to three.

“These data are directly relevant to the decision-making this week,” Saul Faust, a professor of pediatric immunology and infectious diseases, and the lead investigator on the study, said at a press briefing. If a “country or region of the world only has one of the vaccines that we’ve shown that boost then that will be fine to use as a booster and safe to do it. It’s not all about mRNA.”

Most of the vaccines also produced good T-cell responses, another arm of a person’s immune defense, though the effect of Valneva as a booster was less strong.

Three of the vaccines haven’t yet been authorized in the U.K. or European Union. CureVac abandoned its first-generation vaccine in October after disappointing trial results. Novavax is expected to receive clearance in Europe in the coming weeks, while Valneva should get the green light from the U.K. and EU early next year. 

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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In a first, three white-tailed deer test positive for Covid in Canada – WION

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In a first, Canada has detected coronavirus cases in three white-tailed deer. While humans were struggling to battle with the deadly virus and its newly emerging variant, now, even the wildlife is also in danger of being infected by the virus. 

According to the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, the samples were collected early in November in the Estrie region of Quebec. The samples were collected through a “big-game” registration station. 

“Similar to findings in the United States, the deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease, and were all apparently healthy. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was notified on December 1, 2021,” read the statement by the agency.

Also read | In a first, Covid variant Alpha found in pets, says study  

The agency further stated that as of now, there is limited information on the spread of the virus in wild deer.

“COVID-19 remains largely a disease of human concern and typically spreads from human to human. Adhering to public health advice and getting fully vaccinated are key ways to protect against COVID-19,” read the statement. 

Meanwhile, earlier in November, cases of Alpha variant of Covid virus were detected in pets when two cats and dogs tested positive in a PCR test.   

The team, which conducted the study, also clarified Covid in pets remained ‘relatively rare’. The transmission seems to be taking place from humans to pets and not the other way round.   

Also read | In Pics | COVID-19 in animal world, here is a list of the infected species

In addition to these animals, two other cats and a dog displayed antibodies 2-6 weeks after developing signs of cardiac disease.    
These pets had an acute onset of cardiac disease, which includes severe myocarditis. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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​Covid NI: Executive issues statement on Omicron variant and keeping schools open – Belfast Live

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The Northern Ireland Executive has said its priority remains keeping children and young people in school as it issued an update on the current Covid-19 situation.

In a joint statement on Thursday afternoon, Stormont ministers said that while no cases of the Omicron variant have yet been confirmed here, the situation is likely to change in the coming days.

They said: “Today we received an update from our medical and scientific advisers on the latest Covid-19 situation and, in particular, the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“The emergence of this new strain of the virus is a serious and concerning development worldwide. And while there is no need for alarm, it is vitally important that everyone redoubles their efforts to drive infection rates down.

“The evidence on the new variant is being very closely monitored. And our public health experts will continue to liaise with colleagues in other jurisdictions as the situation develops globally and locally.

“No cases of the Omicron variant have yet been confirmed here, but that situation is likely to change in the coming days. The public will be kept informed and health protection measures will be actioned as appropriate.”

Urging people to use this time wisely to drive Covid infection rates down, the Executive statement added: “It is still unclear whether the clinical impact of this new coronavirus variant will be more serious so it is essential that we take preventative action now.

“We are grateful to the public for how they have responded so far. People’s actions are already having an impact and we thank everyone for the steps they are taking.

“The effectiveness of the booster vaccination programme is evidenced in reduced hospital admissions; the large number of people coming forward for first dose vaccine in recent weeks will make a real difference; and the collective effort to adhere to the public health advice has helped in reducing the number of cases.

“We know what works. And as we approach Christmas, it is vital that we all continue to work together to keep our society open, protect our health service and save lives.”

We urge everyone to remain vigilant and play your part in slowing the spread of the virus by following these simple steps:

  • Get first and second vaccine doses, and get your booster when eligible- up to date information is available at nidirect.gov.uk/covidvaccine;
  • Limit your social contacts;
  • Meet outdoors when possible;
  • If meeting indoors, make sure rooms are well-ventilated;
  • Wear a face covering in crowded or indoor settings;
  • Work from home if possible;
  • Practise good hand and respiratory hygiene;
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate immediately and get a PCR test as soon as possible.

“We thank everyone for continuing to make safer choices that will help to protect you, your family and our society.”

Earlier this week, teaching unions called for a ‘circuit breaker’ to be introduced over the Christmas period to control the spread of Covid-19 infection in Northern Ireland’s schools.

In response, Stormont said today: “Our priority remains keeping our children and young people in school.

“We recognise the challenges being faced across all our educational settings and the work that teachers and all staff are doing at this difficult time to support young people.

“We will continue to work with all concerned to keep our schools open and safe.”

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