Some have called the prospect of duelling epidemics a Dickensian disaster. Others are taking comfort in the Southern Hemisphere’s freakishly mild flu season
The body’s blood vessels are lined with tiny, super-soft “hairs” that wave around like tentacles in the blood. They normally keep platelets, the cells that form clots to stop bleeding, from sticking inside the vessels, because when one platelet sticks, more stick, until a potentially lethal blood clot forms.
“Why are critically sick COVID-19 patients clotting?” has been one of the biggest mysteries confronting doctors. This week, a London, Ont. team offered a potential answer: In response to COVID-19, the body’s immune system churns out enzymes that shear off these little sugar-coated hairs. The blood vessels become inflamed and exposed, allowing platelets to glob on, causing micro clots in the lungs and throughout the body.
In addition to the clotting mystery, Dr. Douglas Fraser and his co-authors identified six molecules that appear to predict which people with severe COVID are at the highest risk of death. It could mean knowing when to intervene earlier and more aggressively in people destined to have a very bad outcome, says Fraser.
“It also gives us an opportunity to have really frank and honest conversations with substitute decision makers and loved ones,” says the ICU doctor and lead researcher from Lawson Health Research Institute. How aggressive would they want us to be?
If backed up with more research, the twin studies could lead to better treatments for a new disease that’s about to converge with a familiar foe. What happens when COVID and flu collide?
Some have called the prospect of duelling epidemics a Dickensian disaster. Others are taking some comfort in the Southern Hemisphere’s freakishly mild flu season. “They’re testing really aggressively in Australia and they’re just not finding cases,” says Dr. David Buckeridge, a professor in McGill University’s School of Population and Global Health.
The Southern Hemisphere’s experience is, in some ways, “a good reflection that all of the good public health measures that people are continuing to practise, the hand washing, the physical distancing as much as possible, the use of non-medical masks and so on that help prevent or limit the transmission of COVID-19, would also work equally well for other respiratory infections, including influenza,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said this week.
Others aren’t convinced we’ll get off so easily, noting that peak flu season in the Southern Hemisphere happened when most schools were closed. In Canada, classrooms are just starting to reopen. “Influenza is predictably unpredictable,” said Dr. Mark Loeb, a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University.
“Almost nothing is known” about co-infection with flu and COVID-19, American epidemiologists Michael Osterholm and Edward Belongia write in Science. Most people remain vulnerable to the pandemic virus, they note, and if a COVID-19 surge in the fall overlaps with a surge in flu, the stress on hospitals could be crushing. However, it’s also possible the number of people infected with each virus will peak at different times.
Public health experts are pushing for an uptake in flu shots. In a Pollara survey in May of 1,912 Canadians, 57 per cent said they “definitely” or “probably” will get a flu shot, up from 45 per cent who claimed they had one last year. But a potential “twindemic” is creating unique challenges to getting the vaccine into deltoids. With many offices shuttered, there are fewer office flu clinics. Will there be sufficient PPE for vaccinators in pharmacies and other places? Will the public fear potential exposure to COVID-19 while lining up for shots?
The provinces and territories are being encouraged by the Public Health Agency of Canada to consider different strategies: multiple, smaller clinics instead of big ones, administering shots outdoors in parking lots or drive-thru clinics, mobile clinics in vans or buses, fly-in teams in remote and isolated communities — measures that could be a run-through for the day if and when COVID-19 vaccines become available.
The provinces and territories have bumped up their flu vaccine orders in anticipation of increased demand, to more than 13 million doses, from 11.2 million last flu season. The composition of this season’s flu vaccine has been tweaked, but there isn’t enough information on currently circulating strains to know which will be dominant in Canada this fall and winter. Flu shots are generally 40 to 60 per cent effective if a decent match with the strains circulating.
Both flu and COVID can be deadly, particularly to older people and those with underlying illnesses. Studies suggest a dual or co-infection — flu, plus COVID-19 — is rare, but a risk. One of the key issues will be early testing, so that doctors know what they’re dealing with — is this flu or COVID?
There’s a huge overlap in symptoms but treatments differ. It’s a matter of testing early, and getting a diagnosis, Loeb says, and if there’s a surge in both viruses, it could overwhelm testing systems. Knowing which is which “will be an essential component for public health surveillance,” in addition to how sick people are managed.
The extent to which people keep social distancing and masking will be important for both COVID-19 and the flu. There’s control over that, Loeb says. “On the other hand there’s a lot of return-to-normal activities, like school,” which might make it more difficult to contain both.
In Ontario, a child who gets ill with symptoms of COVID-19 will be isolated and sent home, and one case in a classroom could shut down the class for 14 days.
“We’re seeing a spike in infections just as schools are opening up,” says Steven Taylor, a professor and clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia. Historically, schools have been hotspots for flu and other respiratory infections, “and likely will be hotspots for COVID-19 transmission,” Taylor says, though countries with low virus rates haven’t seen significant transmission among school children.
“Schools will send children home if the school is unable to determine whether a child has COVID-19 versus a cold or flu,” Taylor says. “For many families that means parents will have to try to work from home.”
But McGill’s Buckeridge says there’s room for hope. “As far as we know people don’t transmit influenza virus unless they have symptoms,” he says. “It would be almost societally unacceptable right now to be walking around with those kind of symptoms. And that’s when you’re transmissible for flu. We would expect there to be much more prompt isolation of cases of infectious influenza” than usual, he says.
Sask. Party first to 61 candidates – Prince Albert Daily Herald
With its last nominee acclaimed Saturday, the Saskatchewan Party became the province’s first this election cycle to nominate a full slate of candidates.
There are 61 constituencies in Saskatchewan. The opposition NDP has 45 candidates listed on its website so far. The progressive conservatives are next, with 15, while the Saskatchewan Green Party has at least 13 — 11 listed on its website and another two by Elections Saskatchewan. This election’s newcomer, the Buffalo Party (formerly Wexit Saskatchewan) has nominated five and the Saskatchewan Liberals four.
Three independent candidates have also been listed by Elections Saskatchewan — Nestor Mryglod in Regina Wascana Plains, Trevor Wowk in Regina Lakeview and Rolf Hartloff in Regina Elphinstone-Centre.
Information about becoming an independent candidate is available on the Elections Saskatchewan Website.
The latest Sask. Party candidate — and the 61st to be nominated ahead of October’s provincial election, is Darren Deschambeault in Cumberland.
In a press release, he said he is looking forward to having representation from the region in Scott Moe’s government.
“Providing strong leadership and a real voice for the people of Cumberland in the legislature will help with a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Deschambeault was born and raised in Cumberland House, and currently works as a communications consultant for an oil and gas company. He disclosed a 2001 impaired driving conviction that he has since received a pardon for.
Deschambeault will go up against incumbent NDP MLA Doyle Vermette and Saskatchewan progressive conservative candidate Dean Foster.
“With a full slate of 61 candidates nominated, Premier Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party team will be meeting voters in every part of the province to present their plan for a strong Saskatchewan and a strong economic recovery from the pandemic,” the Sask. Party said.
Locally, nominees are as follows:
• Scott Moe, Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)
• Nadine Wilson, Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)
• Lyle Whitefish, NDP
• Shaun Harris, Progressive Conservative
• Todd Goudy , Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)
• Lorne Schroeder, NDP
• Dave Waldner, Buffalo
• Delbert Kirsch, Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)
• Lon Borgerson (NDP)
Prince Albert Carlton
• Joe Hargrave, Saskatchewan Party (incumbent)
• Troy Parenteau, NDP
Prince Albert Northcote
• Nicole Rancourt, NDP (incumbent)
• Alanna Ross, Saskatchewan Party
• Sarah Kraynick, Green Party
The provincial election is set for October 26.
Active COVID-19 cases up slightly in Red Deer and Central zone – rdnewsnow.com
Sep 22, 2020 5:06 PM
Alberta is reporting 150 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
The latest numbers released by the province show 16,889 cases of coronavirus identified in the province since the pandemic began, with the number of active cases now at 1,565 – up 106 from Monday.
The number of people in hospital with the virus is 51 with nine in intensive care and two more deaths, bringing the death toll to 258. Recovered cases now stand at 15,066.
In the Central zone, the number of active cases is up four to 24, while 629 have recovered. There are currently no hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the Central Zone.
COVID-19 cases confirmed at two more Winnipeg schools – CTV News
The province is advising of confirmed cases of COVID-19 at two more schools in Winnipeg.
Tuesday evening, the province announced there had been a confirmed case of COVID-19 at St. Maurice School on September 17 and 18, and at Emerson School on September 16 and 17.
The province said that staff at St. Maurice School, which is a private K-12 school in Winnipeg, and Emerson School, an elementary school in Winnipeg, is working with public health officials.
The WRHA said staff at both schools had immediately closed off the areas used by the infected persons. These areas were not used again until after cleaning and disinfection occurred.
“Be assured that public health investigations to identify individuals who may have been exposed begin within 24 hours of a confirmed laboratory test,” the province said. “Anyone identified as a close contact will be contacted and provided instructions for self-isolation (quarantine). Testing may also be recommended.”
The province said the exposures for both schools are assessed as low risk and the infection was not acquired at the schools.
The province did not say if any cohorts within the schools have been affected.
CTV News will update this story when more information is available.
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