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Health officials are hinting at ending COVID restrictions (and not because of the truckers) – National Post

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While viruses such as smallpox and polio can be stamped out through aggressive vaccination, COVID-19 is simply too infectious to be eliminated entirely

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The overarching goal of Freedom Convoy 2022 was for the federal government to declare the immediate lifting of all COVID-19 mandates across Canada.

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It was, at root, a politically unrealistic demand, given that most mandates are imposed at the provincial level. But there is nevertheless a growing chorus of politicians and health experts now saying that it’s time for Canada to officially abandon extraordinary COVID-19 measures and “learn to live with” the virus.

“We have let our lives be controlled for the last two years in a significant amount of fear and now we are going to have to change some of that thinking,” Ontario’s top doctor Kieran Moore said in a public address last Thursday.

Moore added, “we can’t eliminate this threat, in fact, we have to learn to live with it.”

Eileen de Villa, medical officer of health for the City of Toronto, similarly said last Friday that residents should gird themselves for a future in which COVID-19 is managed like influenza.

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“Some flu seasons are worse than others. We know it has impact on our health-care system, and yes, it does make a number of people sick, unfortunately, and yes, unfortunately some people do lose their lives to it,” she said, adding that Canadians must nevertheless “find ways of balancing other activities of life along with the control measures.”

The statements all point to Canada eventually treating COVID-19 as an “endemic” disease: A virus that is always present within the Canadian population, but can be controlled and contained without overly disrupting civil society.

  1. Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid on January 20, 2022. Sanchez is leading a drive for European officials to begin treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease.

    Why Omicron is causing some countries to treat COVID like the flu

  2. A pedestrian wearing a mask reads signage stating “Open Face Masks Mandatory” in Toronto during the pandemic.

    COVID-19 could be endemic soon. What will that mean?

  3. The evolutionary trajectory of the virus that causes COVID-19 is unknown, but available data show the vaccines are holding up.

    Learning to live with COVID

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One of the more notable Canadian endemic diseases is tuberculosis. At one time, the respiratory illness was the number one killer in Canada. Most notoriously, unchecked TB outbreaks were one of the reasons that Indian Residential Schools had such high student death rates.

Tuberculosis is still around, but it’s mostly kept in check through a combination of treatment and contact tracing.

In recent months, epidemiologists have been increasingly of the view that the endgame to the COVID-19 pandemic would be the disease retreating into the background as an endemic illness. While viruses such as smallpox and polio can be stamped out through aggressive vaccination, COVID-19 is simply too infectious to be eliminated entirely.

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“I think many experts believe that so-called herd immunity may not be achievable with this virus because it undergoes constant evolution. So what you’re looking at is this endemic state where people will get reinfected over time as immunity wanes,” chief public health officer Theresa Tam told a House of Commons health committee in mid-January.

At a public health level, the push to declare COVID-19 an endemic disease has been most apparent in British Columbia.

In the early days of the pandemic, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry was one of the most aggressive at locking down civil society in order to stop the virus’ spread. Some of her orders regarding long-term care homes have been credited with avoiding much of the carnage seen in Ontario and Quebec.

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Now, Henry is leading the charge to have COVID-19 treated more like the flu. On Jan. 21, Henry announced a significant drawdown on quarantine measures, and effectively asked anybody with COVID-like symptoms to simply stay home until they felt better.

British Columbians “have to change our way of thinking” and get used to a reality wherein COVID-19 is treated “much like how we manage other respiratory illnesses — influenza … or enteroviruses that cause the common cold,” said Henry.

Alberta and Saskatchewan followed soon after. On Jan 24., even as COVID-19 hospitalization peaked across Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe said his government would not be meeting the surge with new restrictions.

“It’s going to remain an ongoing concern for all of us, but we live with other diseases in our communities and province that are also ongoing concerns,” he said.

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The pandemic is still here but … we now dare to believe that we are through the critical phase

Across Europe, COVID-19 strictures are already being lifted en masse by countries whose experience of the disease has been very similar to that of Canada.

Last week, Denmark announced that COVID-19 no longer posed an extraordinary threat to society , and that officials would be lifting all pandemic measures effective Jan. 31.

Denmark’s vaccination rate is comparable to that of Canada. The Nordic country also hasn’t shied away from extremely strict lockdowns in earlier phases of the pandemic. Just before Christmas, Copenhagen responded to the arrival of the Omicron variant by shuttering bars early and closing schools and workplaces.

But Denmark’s 180-degree turn on COVID-19 was driven largely by numbers showing that Omicron cases were surging to unprecedented levels without anywhere near the levels of death and hospitalization seen in earlier waves of the disease.

“The pandemic is still here but with what we know, we now dare to believe that we are through the critical phase,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said last week.

Spain, Ireland, the U.K., France and Germany, among others, have similarly seen their public health establishments signal a shift into the “endemic” phase of COVID-19.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, a trained epidemiologist, recently said that as soon as Omicron cases began to ebb, it would be “correct” for Germans to imagine the return of normal public life.

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Kingston, Ont., area health officials examining future of local vaccination efforts – Global News

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More than 455,000 people in the Kingston region have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Now health officials say they’re using the summer months, with low infection rates, to look ahead to what fall might bring, urging those who are still eligible to get vaccinated do so.

Read more:

Kingston Health Sciences Centre to decommission COVID-19 field site

“Large, mass immunization clinics, mobile clinics, drive-thru clinics and small primary care clinics doing their own vaccine,” said Brian Larkin with KFL&A Public Health.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Gerald Evans says those who are still eligible for a third and fourth dose should take advantage and roll up their sleeves during the low-infection summer months.

“Now in 2022, although you still might get COVID, you’re probably not going to be very sick. You are less likely to transmit and ultimately that’s one of the ways we’re going to control the pandemic,” added Evans.

He expects another wave of COVID-19 to hit in late October to early November and that a booster may be made available for those younger than 60 who still aren’t eligible for a fourth dose.

Read more:

Kingston, Ont. COVID assessment centre cuts hours for the summer

“The best case scenario is a few more years of watching rises in cases, getting boosters to control things and ultimately getting out of it with this being just another coronavirus that just tends to cause a respiratory infection and worst-case scenario is a new variant where all the potential possibilities exist to have a big surge in cases and hopefully not a lot more serious illness,” said Evans.

Public Health says they’re still waiting for direction from the province on what’s to come this fall.

“We’re expecting that we would see more age groups and younger age groups be eligible for more doses or boosters but about when those ages start, we have yet to have that confirmed,” said Larkin.

The last 18 months of vaccines paving the way for the new normal could mean a yearly COVID booster alongside the annual flu shot.

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

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Monkeypox detected in Norfolk County | TheSpec.com – Hamilton Spectator

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The monkeypox virus has found its way to Norfolk County.

The health unit announced on Friday that a Norfolk resident has tested positive and is currently isolating at home.

Contacts of the infected resident have been notified, according to a media release from the health unit.

“There is no increased risk of monkeypox to the general public stemming from this case,” acting medical officer of health Dr. Matt Strauss said in the release.

“Outside of an emergency situation, if you have symptoms of monkeypox, it is important to stay home and call your doctor to be assessed. When seeking medical care, you should wear a high-quality medical mask and cover up all lesions and open sores.”

Monkeypox is spread by direct physical contact, most often by touching a rash on an infected person’s skin but sometimes through “respiratory secretions” if in close proximity for a prolonged period, the health unit said.

“Most people infected with monkeypox will have mild symptoms and recover on their own without treatment,” said the release.

Symptoms lasting between two and four weeks can include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, low energy, muscle aches, skin rash or lesions, sometimes starting on the face or genitals and spreading elsewhere.

The health unit says symptoms usually start between six and 13 days of exposure to the virus.

The Halton region recorded its first confirmed case of monkeypox earlier this month.

Close contacts of monkeypox patients are eligible to receive the smallpox vaccine, which also provides protection against monkeypox.

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Mass vaccination campaign against Monkeypox needed, experts say – Global News

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As the World Health Organization calculates whether to declare monkeypox a global health emergency, infectious disease experts are urging health officials to be more proactive and start ramping up vaccinations and surveillance — especially in African nations where the virus is most prevalent.

The WHO convened its emergency committee Thursday to consider whether the spiralling outbreak of monkeypox should be declared a “public health emergency of international concern,” the WHO’s highest level of alert.

But the United Nations agency is facing criticism over its treatment of monkeypox — jumping into action only after the disease started to spread in rich western nations.

Read more:

WHO to discuss declaring monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency

The viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions is endemic in parts of Africa, which means it is consistently present in certain regions. The continent has registered just over 1,500 suspected cases since the start of 2022, of which 70 have been fatal, according to the WHO.

By comparison, Canada has confirmed over 200 cases, the majority of which are in Quebec, and has had no deaths.

“There are more cases that occur in Africa on a yearly basis than have already been reported outside of Africa right now. And there are more deaths that have occurred in Africa from monkeypox than have occurred in the rest of the world,” said Dr. Sameer Elsayed, an infectious disease physician and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Western University.

Read more:

Monkeypox in Canada: 211 confirmed cases reported across the country

That’s why he believes Africa should be getting the lion’s share of resources to deal with monkeypox — and that should include mass vaccinations, he says.

“I think Africa needs to be looked at with high, high priority,” he said.

“It needs to be a mass vaccination campaign for monkeypox with the newer vaccines for people in the African continent, especially in the high endemic areas.”

He’s not alone.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, a physician and infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, says she also believes more people living in regions where monkeypox is more prevalent should be vaccinated.

“That will actually stop it in endemic regions in this non-endemic outbreak.”

That the WHO is only now taking monkeypox seriously is “profoundly problematic,” Gandhi says, given that the disease has been spreading and killing people in Central and West Africa for years.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll'



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Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll


Monkeypox has about half of Canadians worried, but most confident with health response: poll – Jun 17, 2022

“It’s been circulating since 1958. There are increasing outbreaks — a severe one in Nigeria, for example in 2017 — and it’s only really essentially when this has affected high-income countries that the WHO is jumping on it.”

Experts who have worked on monkeypox in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo have long taken note of rising cases while population immunity to pox viruses has been decreasing, due to lack of vaccination. This is why the world shouldn’t be surprised at the current outbreaks, said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA in California, who has studied monkeypox for two decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how quickly a deadly virus can spread across the globe when the right conditions are present, so health officials ought to learn from this and start being more proactive, she said.

“When it comes to infectious diseases, in particular those viruses that have the potential for global spread, it’s much easier to stay out of trouble than it is to have to get out of trouble.”

In addition to providing vaccines, health officials should also be ramping up resources to study this disease and do more surveillance to get a better understanding of monkeypox and learn why it is spreading in new and unusual ways, Rimoin said.

Read more:

Monkeypox outbreak: Case count rises to more than 3,200 globally, says WHO

“We’ve given this virus a lot of runway to be able to spread. We have not been looking for it as vigilantly as we should be,” she said.

“I think we have to learn the lessons that we’ve learned with COVID-19 and that it is much better to invest ahead of time to get in front of these viruses, to do the kind of surveillance it’s necessary to be regularly updating our knowledge about viruses.”

Good disease surveillance is just as important in poorer countries as it is in “high-resource settings,” she added.

Like many countries around the world, Canada and the United States stopped vaccinating the general population against smallpox by around 1972, which means many on this continent are highly susceptible to pox viruses like monkeypox.

Given that scientists expect to see more emerging infectious diseases due to factors such as climate change, deforestation and globalization, the world should start getting better prepared for new outbreaks, Elsayed said.

Read more:

Monkeypox has Canadian researchers scrambling. Why, and how contagious is it?

This is why, in addition to calling for vaccinations and more resources to fight monkeypox in Africa, Elsayed believes governments in developed nations should also consider more options to protect citizens from pox viruses, including possibly re-introducing mass smallpox vaccinations.

“I believe that these vaccines should come on board again for the general population … but not (just) for monkeypox, but also to protect the world against perhaps a smallpox pandemic that can happen in the future, or even another virus that’s closely related to monkeypox but hasn’t reached humans,” Elsayed said.

He stressed this should only be considered after addressing the more pressing needs in Africa first.


Click to play video: 'WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen'



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WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen


WHO looks into reports of traces of monkeypox found in semen – Jun 15, 2022

Rimoin noted that when the world stopped vaccinating against smallpox, it opened a “gap of immunity” for populations to once again be vulnerable to it. And with the emergence of a number of new pox viruses in different parts of the globe, including mousepox, cowpox and camelpox, the world is not immune to new outbreaks, she said.

“We now have to really think about, How important is it for us to be able to keep pox viruses out of the population?” she said. “What are the stakes of allowing this virus to spread? And then acting accordingly.”

-With files from Global News reporter Reggie Checcini and Reuters.

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

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