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Health Myths that Needs to stop by 2020

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It’s one thing to believe in something entirely harmless.

But health myths often aren’t harmless: they can trick you out of your money, or even worse, cause you and others physical harm.

Here are some health myths we need to stop believing in. It’s time.

Vaccines cause autism

Let’s just get this one out of the way. In 2010, the Lancet retracted a 12-year-old paper by Andrew Wakefield that claimed a link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism.

Scientists had long been questioning the study, saying his sample size was too small and they couldn’t replicate the findings. It also came out that Wakefield carefully selected the children on whom he reported, and some of his research was funded by lawyers who were acting for parents suing vaccine manufacturers.

He’s since lost his medical licence.

Unfortunately, the damage was done. Measles has made a huge comeback, with current outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, the Philippines, Greece and many, many other countries.

In early December, the World Health Organization said more than 140,000 people worldwide died from measles in 2018, something the organization’s director general called an “outrage.”

The WHO has also called vaccine hesitancy one of the world’s top threats to public health.

And despite lots of research, scientists have been unable to find any link between vaccines and autism. Study after study, including one this year that involved nearly every child born in Denmark over an 11-year period, has shown that there is no link between the two.

This belief hasn’t gone away though, and it’s time it did.

Vaping is risk-free

As of Dec. 4, 2019, 2,291 Americans have been hospitalized due to some kind of illness that may be related to their vaping habit, the Centers for Disease Control reported. Forty-eight people have died.

Thirteen cases of vaping-related illness have been reported in Canada as of Dec. 3.

It’s still unclear exactly what is causing the problem. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggested it’s a chemical called vitamin E acetate that could be found in certain liquids, especially ones containing THC, one of the active ingredients in cannabis.

Public health officials have since told people not to vape if they’re not already smokers and have been expressing alarm at the activity’s popularity among teenagers.


There’s one important thing to note here: vaping is definitely safer than smoking. Around 45,000 deaths are linked to smoking every year in Canada, according to a study by the Conference Board of Canada. So far, no deaths in Canada have been linked to vaping.

Just because something is safer than smoking doesn’t make it good, though. Since smoking is one of the riskiest things you can do to your health, pretty much everything is safer than smoking.

Rest will help your back pain

It won’t. This goes for neck pain, too — several studies have now found that regular, gentle exercise is the best way to get back on your feet when you have lower back pain or neck pain.

Bed rest is about the worst thing you can do, Doug Gross, a professor of physical therapy at the University of Alberta who co-authored a major study published in the Lancet.

Regular exercise can also help to prevent back pain in the first place, he said.

Unfortunately, his research showed that even clinicians often suggest someone stay home and rest until they’re pain-free.

Prescription painkillers are also not a great idea: some studies have shown that opioids aren’t any better than ordinary Tylenol or Advil when it comes to treating back pain and can come with added side effects and a risk of addiction.

Cannabis can cure everything

Cannabis is legal now, and that means the drug and its derivatives, like cannabidiol (CBD), are in all kinds of products that claim to help you relax, dull anxiety symptoms, relieve pain and more.

The problem is, from a scientific point of view, we just don’t know if these things are true.

Because cannabis was illegal for so long, there wasn’t much medical research on its properties. We haven’t done the studies, experts say, so we don’t know all that much about what cannabis does and doesn’t do.

Earlier this year, a literature review came to more or less that conclusion about using cannabis or CBD to help treat anxiety and depression: doctors definitely don’t know enough to be recommending it as a general treatment, and there is even some evidence that it might be harmful for these conditions.

Don’t worry, though — researchers are definitely on the case. Two major research centres have been set up at McMaster University and McGill University in the last little while, and lots of people across the country are looking into the medical potential of cannabis.

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COVID-19 in B.C.: 14 new exposures in Metro Vancouver schools, workplace and wedding outbreaks, and more – Straight.com

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One day after B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warned new restrictions could be coming due increased cases from weddings and workplaces, regional health authorities issued notifications about public exposure incidents or outbreaks related to both of those situations.

Meanwhile, new case numbers remain above the 200-case mark, active and monitored cases are still increasing, there are two new healthcare outbreaks, and new exposure events at 14 schools in the Lower Mainland.

While today’s count is lower than yesterday’s record high of 274 new cases, it is higher than the previous record of 203 new cases set a day before on October 21.

Henry and B.C. Deputy Health Minister Stephen Brown announced in a joint statement that there are 223 new cases (including five epi-linked cases) today.

For yet another consecutive day, active cases rose, this time up 89 cases to 2,009 active cases.

Hospitalized cases increased by four people to 75 patients, with 24 of those patients (the same number as yesterday) in intensive care units.

The number of people public health is monitoring continues to grow—an increase of 212 people from yesterday to 4,637 people today.

Unfortunately, Fraser Health declared outbreaks at two healthcare facilities after individual staff members tested positive at these locations:

• Laurel Place (9688 137a Street) in Surrey;

• Fair Haven Homes Burnaby Lodge (7557 Sussex Avenue) in Burnaby.

The good news is that Fraser Health has declared outbreaks at the following facilities as over:

• PICS Assisted Living;

• Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre;

• Chartwell Carrington House Retirement Residence;

• Thornebridge Gardens Retirement Residence.

Active outbreaks remain in 18 healthcare facilities—16 longterm care or assisted-living facilities and two acute-care facilities.

At yesterday’s briefing, Henry had warned that there has been a noticeable increase in the number of cases linked to workplaces. Today, Fraser Health announced that there are two new community outbreaks at two facilities (both of which have been ordered closed):

• Coast Spas Manufacturing (6315 202nd Street) in Langley, where 12 employees have tested positive;

• Pace Processing, a food processing facility (19495 55th Avenue) in Surrey, where 10 employees tested positive.

Thankfully, no new deaths were announced. The total number of deaths remain at 256 people who have died during the pandemic.

A total of 10,247 people have now recovered.

A cumulative total of 12,554 cases have been confirmed in B.C. during the pandemic, including:

• 6,864 cases in Fraser Health;

• 4,319 in Vancouver Coastal Health;

• 662 in Interior Health;

• 371 in Northern Health;

• 250 in the Island Health;

• 88 people from outside Canada.

Saint St. Grill 

At yesterday’s briefing, Henry also raised concerns about a heightened number of cases linked to social gatherings such as weddings, celebrations, and funerals.

Today, Fraser Health added an exposure event that took place at wedding events held at Lake Errock and Saint St. Grill (2514 St Johns Street) in Port Moody from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on October 10. In a statement on social media, the restaurant stated that they were informed that three people had tested positive. 

Loblaw announced that two of its stores had employees who tested positive:

  • Real Canadian Superstore (19800 Lougheed Highway) in Pitt Meadows—the employee last worked there on October 19;
  • Shoppers Drug Mart (2121 Trans-Canada Highway) in Kamloops—the employee last worked there on October 18.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control added only one flight confirmed with COVID-19 to its list today: Air Canada flight 8187 from Vancouver to Fort St. John on October 15.

If you were in rows 2 to 6 on this flight, you should monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days. If you develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and call 811 (if in B.C.) or your local healthcare provider for testing information.

Point Grey Secondary
Point Grey Secondary

Vancouver Coastal Health added new exposure events at six schools to its list.

In Vancouver, new exposures took place at three schools:

  • Point Grey Secondary School (5350 East Boulevard) had an exposure on October 16;
  • Ideal Mini School (855 West 59th Avenue) also on October 16;
  • Sir James Douglas Elementary School (2150 Brigadoon Avenue) on October 20.

In North Vancouver, Handsworth Secondary School (1044 Edgewood Road), which previously had exposures from October 13 to 14, added October 20 as an exposure date.

In Richmond, two schools had new exposures:

  • H.J. Cambie Secondary School (4151 Jacombs Road) had exposures from October 13 to 16, and on October 19;
  • Pythagoras Academy (8671 Odlin Crescent) from October 13 to 14.

Meanwhile, Fraser Health had new exposure incidents at eight schools.

In Coquitlam, Centennial Secondary (570 Poirier Street) had exposures from October 15 to 16.

In Langley, Belmont Elementary (20390 40th Avenue) had an exposure event from October 13 to 15.

Princess Margaret Secondary
Princess Margaret Secondary

In Surrey, there were new exposure events at six schools that all have had previous exposure events:

• Khalsa Secondary—Old Yale Road campus (10589 124th Street) had previous exposure events from September 9 and 10 and September 30 to October 2, had its third exposure event from October 13 to 15;

Princess Margaret Secondary (12870 72nd Avenue), which previously had an exposure on September 11, had additional exposures on October 12, 15, and 16;

Queen Elizabeth Elementary School (4102 West 16th Avenue West), which previously had exposures on September 14 and October 13, has added exposure dates of October 14 to 16, 19, 21, and 22;

Tamanawis Secondary School (12600 66 Avenue), which previously had incidents on September 17 and 30 and October 2 and 6, has had further exposures from October 13 to 14;

W.E. Kinvig Elementary (13266 70b Avenue), which previously had exposures on October 6 to 9, added the additional dates of October 14 to 16;

Westerman Elementary (7626 122 Street), which previously had an exposure event from October 5 to 7, had another exposure event from October 15 to 16.

Island, Interior, and Northern Health did not add any new exposure incidents to their lists.

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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Saturday, Oct. 24 – CBC.ca

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Recent developments:

What’s the latest?

The majority of COVID-19-related claims to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) from workers in Ottawa involve employees in long-term care facilities and retirement homes, but a union that represents many of those workers believes the number should be much higher.

The Ontario Medical Association says some doctors who accept expired health cards aren’t getting reimbursed, despite a decision by the provincial government to show leniency during the pandemic.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) reported 88 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and five more people with COVID-19 in Ottawa have died.

How many cases are there?

As of Thursday’s update from Ottawa Public Health (OPH), 6,384 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

There are 676 known active cases, 5,394 resolved cases and 314 deaths.

Public health officials have reported more than 9,700 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, with more than 8,200 of them resolved.

Seventy-two people with COVID-19 have died elsewhere in eastern Ontario, along with 36 in western Quebec.

What can I do?

Both Ontario and Quebec are telling people to limit close contact only to those they live with or one other home if people live alone to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In Ottawa — which has been rolled back to a modified Stage 2 — and Gatineau, Que., health officials are asking residents not to leave home unless it’s essential. 

A masked pedestrian walks by a Bank Street mural in Ottawa in September. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Indoor dining at restaurants has been prohibited, while gyms, cinemas and performing arts venues are all closed.

Dr. Vera Etches, the capital’s medical officer of health, said earlier this month the national capital’s health-care system is on the verge of collapse.

OPH and some eastern Ontario health units are urging people not to have a Halloween party with other households or go trick-or-treating.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said to listen to local officials but a rule of thumb if trick-or-treating is allowed, people should stick to their neighbourhood and do it outside with their household only.

The Kingston area’s health unit is one that says it can be done safely this year if done differently.

Gatineau and parts of the Outaouais are now on red alert, which means restaurants and bars can’t serve people indoors, organized sports are suspended and theatres must close.

Quebecers are also urged not to travel to Ontario or between regions at different levels on its scale except for essential reasons.

Even though most of the region has been declared a red zone, Premier François Legault said kids can trick-or-treat as long as they don’t go with friends and precautions are taken when giving out candy.

What about schools?

There have been more than 180 schools in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region with a confirmed case of COVID-19:

Few have had outbreaks, which are declared by a health unit in Ontario when there’s a reasonable chance someone who has tested positive caught COVID-19 during a school activity.

As of mid-October, a small fraction of Ottawa students and staff had tested positive.

Distancing and isolating

The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes or speaks onto someone or something.

People can be contagious without symptoms.

This means people should take precautions such as staying home when sick, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean, socializing outdoors as much as possible and maintaining distance from anyone they don’t live with — even with a mask on.

Masks are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec and are recommended outdoors when people can’t distance from others.

Anyone with symptoms or who’s ordered to do so by their local public health unit should self-isolate. The duration is subject to a range stipulated by health officials in both Ontario and Quebec.

Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible. 

Anyone who has travelled recently outside Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell. 

Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pink eye. Children can develop a rash.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic and resources are available to help.

Where to get tested

In eastern Ontario:

Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, or if you’ve been told to by your health unit or the province.

Anyone seeking a test should now book an appointment. Different sites in the area have different ways to book, including over the phone or going in person to get a time slot.

Testing numbers have been lower than the groups running it would like and they want people to know there are often same-day appointments available.

People without symptoms, but who are part of the province’s targeted testing strategy, can make an appointment at select pharmacies.

Ottawa has five permanent test sites, with additional mobile sites deployed wherever demand is particularly high.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Alexandria, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Limoges, Rockland and Winchester.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls.

Kingston’s test site is at the Beechgrove Complex. The area’s other test site is in Napanee. Both are open seven days a week.

People can arrange a test in Bancroft and Picton by calling the centre or Belleville and Trenton online.

Renfrew County residents should call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 for a test or with questions, COVID-19-related or not. Test clinic locations are posted weekly.

In western Quebec:

Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms or who have been in contact with someone with symptoms.

Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau seven days a week at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 avenue Buckingham.

They can now check the approximate wait time for the Saint-Raymond site.

There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Gracefield, Val-des-Monts and Fort-Coulonge.

Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis:

Akwesasne has a COVID-19 test site available by appointment only. It expects to bring back its mobile site in the spring.

Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who’s been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.

People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. 

Anyone in Tyendinaga who’s interested in a test can call 613-967-3603.

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Why lockdowns alone won't save us from the pandemic – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


The prospect of locking society down again the way we did in the first wave of COVID-19 — and the collateral damage that comes with it — is daunting.

The financial devastation on businesses forced to close and lay off employees, the increase in mental health issues, the halting of elective medical procedures and the continuing risks to essential workers on the front lines all factor in.

Keeping society functioning and supporting devastated sectors of the economy while limiting the spread of the coronavirus is key to navigating the pandemic until a safe and effective vaccine is here.

But experts acknowledge there is growing resistance to some of the restrictions that highlights a need to manage the public mood as the pandemic rages on.

You arguably could not find a more politically charged term right now than “lockdown,” since everyone has a different, personal idea of what it is.

“This term has become equated with so many bad things that no one really understands what it means,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s everyone’s worst fear about what somebody else is doing to them regarding the pandemic.”

Osterholm, a veteran of SARS and MERS who warned the world for 15 years that a pandemic was coming, thinks the term lockdown should be abolished altogether.

Instead, Osterholm said we need to look at it as targeted public health measures necessary to reducing the spread of COVID-19 and getting back to normal as quickly as possible, while at the same time supporting those who have suffered financially. 

The key to successfully riding out the pandemic lies in finding balance between working with the population to help keep the number of cases low without substantially changing life as we know it.

“The challenge is, the end isn’t coming soon,” he said. “But it’s coming, and what we need to do is try to have as few cases as possible between now and the time a vaccine arrives.”

‘Pandemic fatigue’ can turn to ‘pandemic anger’

Managing the public’s frustration presents a challenge for public health officials in the second wave.

During a journalism conference at Carleton University in Ottawa on Thursday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that public health messaging can seem inconsistent because of the evolving science in the pandemic. 

“We are living in a more challenging period right now,” she said, in which authorities have “to convince people who are fatigued to stick to sustainable habits or public health practices.” 

Ontario and Quebec have already moved to close bars, restaurants and gyms in their hardest-hit regions amid rising cases, while Alberta and British Columbia weigh the need to tighten restrictions amid record-high rises in cases. 

Osterholm said resistance to public health restrictions not only stems from the concept of “pandemic fatigue,” but also from something he calls “pandemic anger.” 

“It’s people who don’t believe that the pandemic is real,” he said. “They think it’s a hoax.”

Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, said the resistance also stems from “raw selfishness.” 

Protesters clash with police officers during an anti-lockdown protest in London, England, on Sept. 26. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

“There’s an inability to think about community responsibility,” he said, explaining that people think they won’t personally be seriously affected by the virus because it has a comparatively higher survivability rate in younger age groups.

“But if you scale this up to a population, then that’s tens of thousands of deaths – and they don’t care.”

Perception of risk has a cost

The latest World Economic Outlook from the International Monetary Fund found that while lockdowns controlled the spread of the coronavirus, they also contributed to a global economic recession that disproportionately affected vulnerable populations. 

But the IMF report also found the damage to the economy was largely driven by people “voluntarily refraining” from social interactions out of a fear of contracting the virus.

Osterholm said the perception of risk — and not strict public health restrictions — is what holds people back from doing things like travelling by plane or entering a retail store.

“Nobody is telling you you can’t go to the grocery store rather than ordering online — it’s just people don’t feel safe and secure,” he said.

“Well, how do you make that happen? You make it happen by making cases occur at a much, much lower rate than they’re occurring now. It’s not going to be just by telling the virus we’re done.”

Lockdowns should be last resort

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Md., isn’t in favour of lockdowns as a first line of defence in the pandemic. 

“If you’re going to take public health interventions, they have to be very targeted towards specific activities that are actually leading to spread,” he said. “You only use a lockdown when you have fouled up your response so bad that that’s all you have left to do.” 

WATCH | Push to pursue COVID-19 herd immunity is ‘dangerous’:

A group of international experts push back against the Great Barrington Declaration and its pursuit of COVID-19 herd immunity, calling it “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.” 2:05

But ignoring lockdowns isn’t an effective strategy, either.

The Great Barrington Declaration, a controversial proposal from a group of scientists (backed by a U.S. think-tank) to lift restrictions, made headlines last week for its calls to protect “the vulnerable” from COVID-19 with strict measures while allowing those “at minimal risk of death” to return to normal life and build up herd immunity to the virus.

But it failed to present a logical counterargument for controlling the virus or concrete ways to protect the vulnerable (including the elderly and the poor), not to mention those who care for them.

Referring to the declaration, Deonandan said, “If there wasn’t a vaccine coming, if nothing changes and this has to be how we live in perpetuity, then OK, maybe we have to discuss some other options. But none of that is true.”

Canada has had more than 200,000 cases and is approaching 10,000 deaths, but modelling predicts the situation would be much worse if public health guidelines like physical distancing, mask-wearing and proper hand hygiene weren’t followed. 

Osterholm said those pushing the the Barrington Declaration completely misunderstood the concept behind public health restrictions and the reasons behind enacting them in the first place. 

“If you’re going to keep thinking about this as a lockdown, then we’re going to find a lot of resistance to this,” he said. “But on the other hand, if you don’t suppress transmission, we’re also going to see a lot of deaths.” 

A question of public tolerance

Lockdowns are one of many tools a country can use in the face of an infectious disease outbreak, but their effectiveness is dependent on the public’s willingness to tolerate them.

China imposed some of the most severe public health restrictions in modern history upon the discovery of the coronavirus at the beginning of this year, something democratic nations would be unlikely to imitate.

But China is already seeing the rewards of its draconian efforts to control the spread. It’s the only major economy expected to grow this year, with retail spending surpassing pre-pandemic levels for the first time and factory output rising on the backs of demand for exports of masks and other medical supplies to countries like Canada.

Other regions like New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong acted swiftly by closing borders, imposing strict public health measures and opting for shorter, more strategic lockdowns, which have allowed them to carefully reopen society. 

South Korea, meanwhile, didn’t lock down at all and instead focused on testing, tracing and isolating cases to control the spread of the virus successfully. 

“The lesson here is you choose one path and you stick with it,” Deonandan said. “What is not acceptable is vacillating between different strategies.”

Lockdowns are one of many tools a country can use in the face of an infectious disease, but their effectiveness is dependent on the public’s willingness to tolerate them. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

Australia imposed targeted lockdown measures in the face of outbreaks, which University of Western Australia epidemiologist Dr. Zoë Hyde said has been “enormously successful” in eliminating the virus in much of the country. 

“While lockdowns absolutely have harms associated with them, the harms are much less than those of an unmitigated epidemic,” she said. “Governments can also minimize the harms of lockdowns by making them short and sharp, and by financially supporting workers and businesses.” 

Lockdowns ‘a sign of failure’

Hyde said the eastern Australian state of Victoria was a precautionary tale for the debate over lockdowns, because of mistakes made in a hotel quarantine system that allowed the virus to spread again. 

“If governments have not tried hard enough to suppress the virus, then a lockdown is inevitable, whether people want one or not,” Hyde said.

“Lockdowns are a sign of failure. They’re a sign that governments have not been doing enough.” 

Victoria was recording around 700 new cases per day in July, but a second lockdown coupled with a mask mandate have brought case numbers down to only a handful a day at most.

“Measures to combat the virus have to be tailored. They can’t be more than the economy can bear,” Hyde said, “but equally we must remember that the best way to protect the economy is to suppress the virus.” 

“Ultimately it’s the virus doing the damage to the economy, not the measures designed to suppress it. No matter what we wish, the economy won’t go back to normal if a dangerous virus is circulating.” 


To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.

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