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H5N1 strain considered the worst avian flu to hit Saskatchewan since 2015 – Global News



Biologist Paule Hjertaas considers herself an avid birder and is often admiring a variety of different birds on a regular basis. But on April 8, it was a different story

“First we thought it was poisoning,” said Hjertaas. “When we got home my husband phoned a conservation officer and they mentioned there was likely one case of bird flu.”

Hjertass returned to the same location on April 12 and found a number of dead birds along a section of the road they had parked on.

“I assumed that the birds had been there for a while,” said Hjertass. “And that’s why there was so many of them.”

That day she decided to take a video of a goose that was so disoriented it could barely walk and struggled to fly.

“It was obvious that the bird had neurological problems and this bird flew but he was just as disoriented flying as he was on the ground. The flight was very erratic.”

Avian influenza is a flu virus that is specific to birds. They are known to naturally carry these viruses as a lot of different strains are always circulating. But provincial wildlife health specialist Iga Stasiak said this is a new strain of what is known as H5N1.

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“It is very different,” said Stasiak. “It’s causing more widespread mortality in our wild bird populations.”

Bonnie Dell, the president of the Wildlife Society of Saskatchewan, was not surprised avian influenza had made its way into the province but was shocked to see how quickly it had begun to spread.

“I, personally, note I have taken down my bird feeders,” said Dell. “I do not want to encourage birds congregating and I hope more people do that. It’s a little way to help. The ministry is also suggesting that you disinfect your bird feeders on a regular basis.

“I don’t think there are enough precautions we can take to help the bird population.”

Dell said if someone sees a struggling bird, call the Wildlife 911 Hotline at (306) 242-7177. Dell said they are currently going case by case.

If someone spots a dead bird in their yard, experts always recommend calling the Ministry of Environment Inquiry line. But if you do decide to dispose of the bird yourself, the ministry advises that a mask be worn along with disposable gloves while the bird is placed in a double bag. When the bag is thrown out, so should the mask and disposable gloves. The last step is to sanitize the area with a 10 per cent bleach solution to stop the spread of the virus.

“If you come upon a large flock that are dead or struggling,” said Dell, “do not approach it, do not try to go in and clean up a large site that has numerous dead birds. That is up to the professionals.”

Dell said just by walking into the area or driving in, the virus could be spread right back to your home, past neighbouring farms, because as a person drives away, it’s now on their vehicle’s tires and shoes. It is highly contagious.

“There hasn’t been reports of it spreading to humans or crossing species,” said Dell. “But it can’t be ruled out; this is COVID for birds. We don’t know a lot about it yet.”

Dell said the major concern lies with the endangered birds in the province. She said species like whooping cranes and sage grouse that are critically endangered may not recover from a virus like this one and for her, that’s a terrifying thought.

Stasiak, the provincial wildlife health specialist, said this strain of avian influenza is causing the worst outbreak the province has seen in seven years. What can be done to help birds through this outbreak is limited, Stasiak said, but there is one thing that can be done.

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“We certainly do not want to promote congregation or artificial congregation among wild birds,” said Stasiak. “Especially waterfowls, so things like feeding waterfowls and those sorts of practices are not recommended at this time.”

If you spot a sick or dead bird, don’t approach it. Leave it to the experts. Call the Ministry of Environment Inquiry Line at 1-800-567-4224 or the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 306-966-5815.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Monkeypox: Cases found and suspected in Portugal, Spain – CTV News




Portuguese authorities said on Wednesday they had identified five cases of rare monkeypox infection and Spain’s health services are testing eight potential cases after Britain put Europe on alert for the virus.

The five Portuguese patients, out of 20 suspected cases, are all stable. They are all men and they all live in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, the Portuguese health authorities said.

European Health authorities are monitoring any outbreak of the disease since Britain has reported its first case of monkeypox on May 7 and found six more in the country since then. 

None of the eight suspected cases in Spain has been confirmed yet, the Spanish Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder, first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade.

Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.

It is not particularly infectious between people, Spanish health authorities said, and most people infected recover within a few weeks, though severe cases have been reported.

Four of the cases detected in Britain self-identified as gay, bi-sexual or other men who have sex with men, the U.K. Health Security Agency said, adding evidence suggested there may be a transmission in the community.

The agency in Britain urged men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.

The Spanish Health Ministry and Portugal’s DGS health authority Spanish did not release any information on the sexual orientation of the monkeypox patients or suspected patients.

The two countries sent out alerts to health professionals in order to identify more possible cases.

(Reporting by Patricia Rua in Lisbon and Christina Thykjaer in Madrid; Editing by Inti Landauro and Alison Williams)

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Long Covid Patients' Symptoms Helped After Vaccination in Study – BNN



(Bloomberg) — Fewer Covid-19 patients reported lingering symptoms from the infection after getting vaccinated, according to a study that suggests the shots could help alleviate the burden of long Covid. 

A first vaccine dose after infection with the virus was associated with a 13% decline in the odds of having long Covid and a second shot with a 9% drop in the study published Thursday in the BMJ. Over the course of seven months in 2021, researchers regularly visited the households of more than 28,000 people to ask whether they were experiencing symptoms long after infection.

The findings, together with evidence that long Covid is reduced in those infected after vaccination, suggest that jabs may help decrease the prevalence of persisting symptoms.

“The large scale of this study means that we can be fairly confident about what has been observed, but it does not mean we can be sure what it means,” said Peter English, a former chair of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee. 

“The most obvious — and perhaps the most likely inference — is that vaccination does prevent at least some cases of long Covid, and may reduce the severity of symptoms,” he said in emailed comments. But “we cannot yet say this with any confidence.” English wasn’t involved in the research. 

An estimated 1.8 million people in the UK had reported experiencing long Covid as of April 2022, with two in three people saying the symptoms had affected their day-to-day activities, according to the latest Office for National Statistics data.

The scientists who ran the study called for more research to “understand the biological mechanisms underpinning any improvements in symptoms after vaccination, which may contribute to the development of therapeutics for long Covid.” 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Europe, US on alert after new monkeypox cases emerge – Al Jazeera English



US, Spain and Portugal announce cases of rare viral infection, two weeks after UK identified its first case.

Health authorities are on alert for the spread of monkeypox, a rare viral disease first reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s, after new cases emerged in Europe, and the United States confirmed its first infection.

Portugal said on Wednesday it had identified five cases of monkeypox, Spain said it was testing 23 potential cases, and the US state of Massachusetts announced it had found a case in a man who recently travelled to Canada.

The United Kingdom was the first to confirm a case of monkeypox earlier this month. It has now detected seven cases and is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate the virus’s spread after being unable to make a link between the initial case, in a man who had travelled from Nigeria, and the more recent ones.

Health authorities suspect some of the infections may have occurred through sexual contact – in this instance among gay or bisexual men – with four of the UK cases identified among people who visited sexual health clinics after developing the rash associated with monkeypox.

“No source of infection has yet been confirmed for either the family or GBMSM clusters,” the WHO said in a statement in Wednesday. “Based on currently available information, infection seems to have been locally acquired in the United Kingdom. The extent of local transmission is unclear at this stage and there is the possibility of identification of further cases.”

Monkeypox, which is similar to human smallpox, typically begins with a flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes, followed by a rash on the face and body. Most people recover from the illness, which is endemic in parts of central and western Africa and usually the result of close contact with infected animals, within a few weeks, but it can be fatal.

The five Portuguese patients, out of 20 suspected cases, are all in a stable condition, according to the country’s health authorities. They are all men who live in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, they added.

Health authorities in Madrid said the cases discovered in Spain appeared to be linked to sexual contact.

“In general, its transmission is via respiratory drops but the characteristics of the 23 suspected infections point to it being passed on through bodily fluids during sex relations,” they said in a statement, without giving further details.

“All of them are young adult males and most of them are men who have sexual relations with other men, but not all of them,” Elena Andradas, head of public health in the Madrid region, told Cadena Ser radio.

US health officials said the Massachusetts man who developed monkeypox went to Canada to see friends at the end of April and returned home in early May. He is currently being treated in hospital.

Jennifer McQuiston from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said while it was the only case the CDC was aware of, “I do think we are preparing for the possibility of more cases”.

The agency is in contact with its counterparts in the UK and Canada as part of the investigation, but McQuiston said no link had been established so far.

There are two types of monkeypox virus: the West African clade and Congo Basin (Central African) clade. The case-fatality ratio for the West African clade has been documented to be about 1 percent, and up to 10 percent for patients with the Congo Basin clade.

The WHO said that while smallpox vaccination has been effective against monkeypox, the end of mass vaccination programmes for smallpox meant people under the age of 40 or 50 no longer had that protection.

The UK has previously reported cases of monkeypox – all linked to travel to Nigeria – as has the US. An outbreak there in 2003 was traced to pet prairie dogs that had been housed with small animals imported from Ghana that were found to have the virus.

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