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Health Canada issues advisory over mysterious illness sickening dozens in China – CTV News



Health Canada is warning travellers to China to avoid contact with animals after a mysterious form of pneumonia of unknown origins sickened dozens of people and left some in critical condition.

“Right now we are monitoring the situation very carefully. It is worth maintaining vigilance,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.

Little is known about the viral illness, which was first reported last week in Wuhan, a city in central China, and has since spread to at least 59 cases. Seven patients remain in critical condition.

Chinese authorities say tests so far suggest the disease is not similar to any known virus and does not resemble bird flu, which is spread through birds and considered a potential public health threat.

Many of those currently in hospital with the mysterious pneumonia were dealers or vendors at the Huanan Seafood Market, which was shut down on Jan. 1 for disinfection.

The outbreak also comes just two weeks before China celebrates its new year – usually a busy time for travel. The timing puts added pressure on scientists to answer several key questions, such as how the disease is spread.

“There has been no evidence to date that this illness, whatever it’s caused by, is spread easily from person to person,” said Dr. Tam, who added that no health care workers caring for the patients have become ill — a positive sign.

Still, travellers from Wuhan are being screened at airports in China and nearby South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore

Doctors in China have also been ordered to report any suspected cases. These patients will be quickly quarantined, said Carrie Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong.

The unidentified pneumonia is triggering unease because despite rapid tests to identify new pathogens there is no confirmed source.

Dr. Neil Rau, an infectious disease specialist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said the lack of answers “makes this story feel mysterious, and makes us think a little bit about 2003 when SARS was an unknown illness.”

SARS also began in China, caused respiratory distress and eventually spread around the planet, infecting 8,000 people. In Canada, the disease killed 44 people.

At the time, China kept the outbreak under wraps and didn’t share information to help other countries pinpoint potentially infected travellers.

Public health officials say China is sharing information, and the World Health Organization is also monitoring the outbreak.

Steps are already being taken in British Columbia to prepare in the event that the disease spreads overseas to Canada.

“We want to be on guard, prepared in case this turns out to be something that is imported,” said Danuta Skowronski, the epidemiology lead of influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens at the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Health Canada advises travellers to Wuhan to avoid “high-risk areas” such as farms, live animal markets and any areas where animals may be slaughtered. Any contact with animals alive or dead, including pigs, ducks, chickens and wild birds, is discouraged.

Officials also say travellers should avoid any surfaces with animal droppings or secretions.

Travellers who fall ill are urged to seek immediate medical attention and avoid contact with others. Proper hand-washing under warm, running water for at least 20 seconds is advised.

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Hospitals in Saskatchewan face prolonged COVID-19 crisis, modelling shows



COVID-19 patients will keep crowding hospital intensive care units (ICUs) in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan well into next year without government orders to limit public mixing, modelling data showed on Wednesday.

As the pandemic ebbed during the summer, the western farming and mining province lifted restrictions at the fastest rate in Canada along with neighbouring Alberta. Saskatchewan has since become the country’s  COVID-19 hotspots, with the lowest vaccination rate among provinces, and had to hastily reimpose restrictions such as masking in indoor public places.

“I have no shame in pleading to the public, that we’ve gone so far and we just have to pull along for the next weeks and months,” said Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, who broke down with emotion during a media briefing. “It is distressing to see what is happening in our ICUs and hospitals and I’m sorry — it’s a very challenging time.”

The pandemic’s spread has forced Saskatchewan to fly some COVID-19 patients to Ontario for care and to cancel thousands of surgeries.

Saskatchewan’s modelling showed that severe cases will continue to overwhelm ICUs until March before beginning to decline, without a reduction in mixing, such as smaller gatherings, and greater access to vaccine booster shots. Reduced mixing should ideally last at least 28 days, Shahab said.

The provincial government, led by Premier Scott Moe, has declined to impose limits on private gatherings, however.

Canada’s daily case counts spiked in late summer, but have declined recently. Cases in Saskatchewan and Alberta have also started trending lower, however they have still recorded the highest rates of deaths among the 10 provinces in the past week, and the highest rates of active cases.


(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by David Gregorio)

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SHA says COVID-19 protocols prevented a flu season last year –



The Saskatchewan Health Authority says last year’s flu season was prevented thanks to masks, physical and social distancing, and increased hand washing.

Dr. Tania Diener, the COVID-19 Immunization Co-Chief at the province’s Emergency Operations Centre, says that, “We effectively didn’t have a flu season here last year.”

With restrictions slowly lifting from a population feeling the stress of isolation and public health measures, the province is uncertain about whether or not a flu season will return this winter.

Dr. Diener emphasized that, “Our hospitals are already under strain due to the number of cases of COVID-19, especially among those who are unvaccinated, due to the new Delta variant. A further influx of people sick with influenza would further strain those resources, so we’re asking everyone to get their flu vaccine again this year.”

SHA says they have enough evidence at this point to conclude that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine together is safe, and they encourage everyone able to do so to get both vaccines as soon as possible. 

This year’s flu vaccine is quadrivalent, meaning it protects against four different flu variants, an improvement from last year’s, which was trivalent. 
Information on this year’s flu vaccine can be found here.

Those looking to book their flu and/or COVID-19 vaccine can go to

SHA’s full press release can be found here.

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Province says flu shots prevents serious illness, deaths – My Comox Valley Now



The province wants you to roll up your sleeves for another kind of vaccine as we head into flu season.

Health officials are hoping you will take their advice and get a flu shot, which is free for everyone in B.C. older than six months.

They say the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it has put on the health-care system continue to make influenza immunization a priority.

“All British Columbians should get vaccinated against influenza to protect themselves and their loved ones from serious illness, to reduce the strain on our hard-working health workers and to do our part to make sure the health system continues to be there for people who need it, where they need it and when they need it,” said health minister Adrian Dix. 

“I’m grateful to all of our health-care workers, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners and others for how they help people get immunized to protect themselves and those they care about.”

Seasonal influenza and other respiratory viruses will be in communities alongside COVID-19 this fall and winter.

The province says it “has the potential to escalate pressures already faced by the health-care system, particularly if the effects from COVID-19 and seasonal influenza occur are the same.”

That is why vaccines are now available and the province continues to increase vaccine accessibility through many locations and vaccine providers throughout B.C.

“This year, it’s especially important for people to get vaccinated against influenza. Last year’s low influenza rates means our immunity against influenza is lower than usual,” said provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. 

“Getting your influenza vaccine this year is more important than ever to protect yourself, your community and our overstretched health-care system.”

Pharmacies around B.C. have played a key role in providing easy access to influenza vaccines since 2009. 

This year, vaccines are available to pharmacies through a direct-distribution model. 

This means pharmacies are able to order them directly from distributors, which the province says makes “influenza immunization easier and more flexible for people in B.C.”

“Pharmacists played a key role in helping people get immunized against COVID-19 earlier this year and administered the majority of influenza doses last year,” said Geraldine Vance, CEO, B.C. Pharmacy Association. “We’re proud of the role we continue to play in protecting our health-care system and keeping everyone safe.”

Flu vaccines have been available already for certain high-risk groups. 

As they become available more broadly to the public throughout the province, you’re asked to check their health authority’s website or call their health-care provider or pharmacist to check for availability and to make an appointment.

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