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How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s first case – CityNews Toronto

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On Jan. 25, 2020, Canadians were still living their lives like they always had: commuting to the office, visiting friends, dining out, hugging loved ones, vacationing. But the announcement that day of Canada’s first COVID-19 case set in motion a chain of events that would soon change everything.

By March, with cases climbing, health officials began implementing a series of measures that would fundamentally alter how many Canadians live. Lockdowns and calls for physical distancing led to companies shifting to work from home, travel restrictions, mask-wearing rules, cancellation of major events, and video meetings replacing in-person interactions as people were asked to avoid seeing anyone, even loved ones.

Jack Jedwab, the president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says the biggest change to Canadians’ daily lives has been the isolation from friends, family and co-workers.

“I think at the root of a lot of that change is these limits on our mobility, which take different forms, whether it’s interacting with family and friends, or seeing people that we’re accustomed to seeing in our daily lives in person as opposed to on screens,” he said.

An online survey conducted for Jedwab’s group in September found that over 90 per cent of the 1,500 people polled said COVID-19 had changed their lives, with most citing the inability to see family and friends as the biggest factors.

While few Canadians have been untouched by the pandemic, Jedwab says women, newcomers to Canada and people who were already economically and socially vulnerable appear to have been among the most deeply affected, particularly by job losses.

Here’s a look at how COVID-19 has changed daily life for some Canadians of different groups:

Seniors

For Bill VanGorder, a retired 78-year-old from Halifax, the pandemic put a temporary halt on his active social life and his favourite pastimes of volunteering in the local theatre and music scenes.

“Theatre people, as you may know, are people who love to hug, and not being able to hug in these times probably has been one of the most difficult things,” he said in a phone interview.

He considers himself lucky, because at least he and his wife Esther have each other, unlike many of his single friends who are completely isolated. Many older people, who are more at risk of severe complications from COVID-19, are struggling to stay connected with family or finding people to help them with household tasks.

VanGorder, who works with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, also believes unclear government messaging, particularly on when older adults will get access to the vaccine, is “creating huge anxiety and mistrust in the system,” among already-nervous seniors.

But while the pandemic has been hard, he says there have also been silver linings. He and many of his friends have been learning to use platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime, which help seniors stay in touch with relatives and connect with their communities.

“We think the positive thing is that, of course, this knowledge will continue after COVID and will be a real step forward, so that older adults can feel more involved in everything that’s going on around them,” he said.

The first thing he’ll do when things get back to normal is to hug his grandchildren and theatre friends, he said.

University students

As classes have moved online, many students have had to adapt to living and studying in small spaces and being isolated from friends and campus life at a stage when forging lifelong friendships and social networks can be crucial.

Small living quarters, the inability to travel home, financial fears and uncertainties about the job market have contributed to a “greater sense of isolation” for many students, according to Bryn de Chastelain, an Ontario resident studying at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

While he believes schools have done their best to support students, de Chastelain says many students have seen their mental health suffer.

“A number of students are really struggling with having to learn from home and learn online, and I think that a number of strategies that students are used to taking up are very difficult to replicate in the online environment,” he said.

Parents

Schools across the country were shut down for several months in the spring, ushering in a challenging time for parents who were suddenly forced to juggle full-time child care, work and keeping their families safe.

The reopening of schools in the fall brought different challenges depending on each province’s COVID-19 situation and approach. In Ontario, some parents opted for full-time online learning, while others were forced into it when Premier Doug Ford chose to extend the winter break. In Quebec, which doesn’t allow a remote option for most students, some reluctant parents had no choice but to send their children back to class.

“I think uncertainty, not only for kids but for everything — work, life relationships and everything — that has certainly been the theme of COVID,” said Doug Liberman, a Montreal-area father of two.

Liberman said the biggest challenge has been trying to balance the health and safety of his family with keeping his food manufacturing business going and maintaining a sense of normalcy for his two girls, ages 10 and 12.

For his family, that has meant trying to spend time outside but also accepting more screen time, and ultimately, taking things day-by-day.

“I certainly think that we certainly don’t have the answer, and I think we’ve done as best as we could, like everybody else has,” he said.

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Why it's important to tell people that monkeypox is predominantly affecting gay and bisexual men – Medical Xpress

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<div data-thumb="https://scx1.b-cdn.net/csz/news/tmb/2022/why-its-important-to-t.jpg" data-src="https://scx2.b-cdn.net/gfx/news/2022/why-its-important-to-t.jpg" data-sub-html="Monkeypox particles in an infected cell. Credit: NIAID, CC BY“>

<img src="https://scx1.b-cdn.net/csz/news/800a/2022/why-its-important-to-t.jpg" alt="Why it's important to tell people that monkeypox is predominately affecting gay and bisexual men" title="Monkeypox particles in an infected cell. Credit: NIAID, CC BY” width=”800″ height=”530″>
Monkeypox particles in an infected cell. Credit: NIAID, CC BY

Monkeypox virus, or MPXV, is an emerging threat to public health. The World Health Organization recently declared the current outbreak a global public health emergency.

For decades, several African countries have experienced ongoing outbreaks of MPXV, driven primarily by contact with animals and transmission within households. However, before last year, most people in Europe and North America had never even heard of the disease. That was until the among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Debates over the epidemiology of MPXV

Over the past several months, a controversy has raged about whether it’s OK to say that the current MPXV outbreak is primarily affecting gay and bisexual men, and that it is primarily being spread through close personal contact, such as sex.

As a social and behavioral epidemiologist working with marginalized populations, including gay and bisexual men, I believe it’s important that people know that sexual and gender minority men are the primary victims of this MPXV outbreak. I believe this knowledge will help us end the outbreak before it bridges into other communities.

For reference, more than 90% of cases in non-endemic countries have been transmitted through intimate , and the vast majority of cases are among gay men. Very few cases are linked to community transmission.

While these statistics are undisputed, some have feared that identifying sexual behavior as the primary cause of current MPXV transmission would dampen the public health response. Others have warned that connecting MPXV to an already stigmatized community will worsen stigma towards gay sex.

Non-sexual transmission is possible, and a considerable threat

It is true that MPXV can transmit through more casual contact and through fomites (inanimate objects on which some microbes can survive, such as bed linens, towels or tables).

However, months into the current outbreak, we have not seen these routes emerge as important pathways of transmission. This may be due to changes in the fundamental transmission dynamic of MPXV or due to enhanced cleaning procedures implemented in response to COVID-19 in places such as gyms and restrooms.

Why it’s crucial to know MPXV affects gay and bisexual men

Informing the public about MPXV is important because plays an important role in shaping public health policies, such as who gets access to vaccines and what interventions are used to stop .

A recent study conducted by my team aimed to demonstrate the importance of public health education by asking Canadians to participate in a discrete choice experiment.

We asked participants to choose between two hypothetical public health programs across eight head-to-head comparisons. Descriptions for each hypothetical program identified the number of years of life gained by patients, the it addressed and the population it was tailored for.

From our analyses of this data, we learned a lot about how the public wants public health dollars to be spent and how their knowledge and bias shapes these preferences. There were five major takeaways:

  1. People preferred interventions that added more years to participants’ life expectancy. In fact, for one year of marginal life gained, there was a 15% increase in the odds that participants chose that program.
  2. We found that people tended to favor interventions that focused on treatment rather than prevention. While this approach is emotionally intuitive, large bodies of evidence suggest that it is more cost-effective to prevent disease than to treat it. As the old saying goes: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  3. People generally preferred interventions for common chronic diseases—such as , diabetes and cancer—and were less likely to favor interventions for behavior-related conditions, such as sexually transmitted infections.
  4. People generally preferred programs focused on the general population as opposed to those tailored for key marginalized populations. In fact, people were least likely to prefer interventions tailored for sexual and gender minorities.
  5. The bias against behavioral interventions and those tailored for key populations was overcome when the programs addressed a health condition that was widely understood to be linked to the population the program was tailored to. For example, people were more likely to support interventions for sexually transmitted infections when these interventions were tailored for people engaged in sex work or for gay and .

This study highlights why it is important to educate the public about inequities. People are smarter, more pragmatic, and more compassionate than we give them credit for. If we take the time to share evidence with them about the challenges that stigmatized communities face, they will be more willing to support policies and efforts to address these challenges.

Ending MPXV quickly is critical, especially since the virus has the potential to evolve in ways that could make the disease more infectious. Protecting gay and bisexual men first, protects everyone.

We should, of course, always be aware of the potential harms and the corrosive effects of stigma. However, in , honesty really is the best policy.


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Monkeypox: An expert explains what gay and bisexual men need to know


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How Worried Should You Be About New Reports on Polio? – The Suburban Newspaper

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MONDAY, Aug. 15, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Poliovirus detected in New York City wastewater last week put public health officials on high alert, as it indicates the potentially paralyzing virus is circulating widely in the area.

But infectious disease experts say there’s no need for families of fully vaccinated children to panic.

“The inactivated polio vaccine is part of the standard childhood immunization schedule, so for most families, it really shouldn’t be a concern,” said Dr. Gail Shust, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at NYU Langone Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital in New York City. “It happens to be an extremely effective vaccine.”

At this point, there’s also no need to seek out a polio booster for a fully vaccinated child or adult, she added.

“For kids who’ve gone through the normal vaccination schedule in the United States, there is zero reason for them to get a booster,” Shust said.

Instead, concern should be focused on communities with clusters of unvaccinated children and adults, because those are the people at risk for polio, experts say.

A young man in Rockland County, N.Y. — about 45 minutes northwest of the Bronx — was diagnosed in late July with the first case of paralytic polio identified in the United States in nearly a decade.

Subsequently, poliovirus was detected in the sewage of both Rockland County and neighboring Orange County, indicating community transmission of the virus.

Polio can lead to permanent paralysis of the arms and legs. It also can be fatal if paralysis occurs in muscles used to breathe or swallow.

About 1 in 25 people infected with poliovirus will get viral meningitis, and about 1 in 200 become paralyzed.

“A lot of people who get infected with poliovirus, they’re asymptomatic,” Shust said. “It’s entirely possible there are other cases that haven’t been diagnosed and there are more people infected than we’re aware of.”

Children should receive at least three doses of polio vaccine by 18 months of age, with a fourth dose delivered between ages 4 and 6, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York state health officials said they are particularly concerned by neighborhoods where fewer than 70% of children between 6 months and 5 years of age have received at least three doses of polio vaccine.

About 86% of New York City kids have gotten all three doses, but in Rockland County the rate is just over 60%, and in Orange County the rate is just under 59%, state health officials said.

Statewide, nearly 79% of children have received three doses by their second birthday, officials said.

Poliovirus also has been identified in London’s wastewater, and health officials in the United Kingdom have decided to offer polio vaccine boosters to children.

“They’re starting to do that in London. We haven’t said that that’s necessary,” said Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the Bethesda, Md.-based National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

“The only time we’ve given boosters in the past is when someone who was vaccinated as a child then decided to travel to some developing country where there was a lot of polio, and we said, OK, to be on the safe side, to be prudent, we’ll give you a booster before you go,” Schaffner said. “It wasn’t really thought to be necessary, but it was a prudent, extra, easy, safe thing to do.”

Poliovirus lives in the intestinal tract and can be transmitted through stool, so wastewater surveillance is a logical way to track it, said Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University in New York City.

More from this section

“These viruses have probably been in the sewage for years,” he said. “We’ve just never looked for them, and now we started to look because of this case. And I would say the more we look, we’re going to find it all over the U.S., especially in major cities.”

These strains of poliovirus likely entered the United States from people in other countries who have had the oral polio vaccine, Racaniello and Schaffner said.

The oral vaccine was the first developed and the easiest to administer, so it is still used as part of the World Health Organization‘s polio eradication efforts around the globe, the experts said. But, Racaniello said, it’s an infectious vaccine, meaning it contains a weakened version of the virus itself.

“It reproduces in your intestines, and you shed it — that’s the virus in the sewage,” he said. “That virus gets around very easily, and it can cause polio even though it’s a vaccine virus. After it passes through the human gut, it can reacquire the ability to cause polio.”

The United States stopped using the oral vaccine in 2000, after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force decided that the risk of even a few incidental cases of polio was too great, Schaffner said.

“Each year we had about 4 million births and we had somewhere between six and 10 cases of vaccine-associated poliomyelitis,” he said. “We were giving a very small number of children and adults paralysis by using the oral vaccine.”

The U.S. now exclusively uses a four-dose inactivated polio vaccine.

“The virus is killed. There’s no possibility it can multiply. It cannot mutate. It cannot cause paralysis,” Schaffner said. “But as an inactivated viral vaccine, it has to be given by needle and syringe, which is more cumbersome and considerably more expensive and, of course, added to the number of inoculations little children were getting, which didn’t make moms too happy.”

Schaffner said it’s “notable” that vaccine-related poliovirus is circulating in the United States.

“We wouldn’t have expected it to be widely disseminated, so we’re just finding there’s even more intercontinental transmission of these oral polio vaccine viruses than we thought,” Schaffner said.

“If you had asked me before this case, I would have said that unless somebody has just gone abroad or had a visitor from abroad, you wouldn’t find it here because we’re not using [the oral vaccine] in the United States,” Schaffner added. “But we may be a smaller global community even than I thought.”

The only true protection is vaccination, and Racaniello hopes that wastewater surveillance data will help persuade the vaccine-hesitant to go ahead and get their jabs.

“Maybe they thought there was no poliovirus in the U.S., right? And so they say I don’t need to get vaccinated,” Racaniello said. “And so now we can show them that there is. In fact, I think we should do more surveillance of wastewater and show people, look, it’s in every major metropolitan city. You better get vaccinated.”

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about polio.

SOURCES: Gail Shust, MD, pediatric infectious diseases specialist, NYU Langone Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, New York City; William Schaffner, MD, medical director, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Md.; Vincent Racaniello, PhD, Higgins Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Columbia University, New York City

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Monkeypox outbreak 'shows signs of slowing' in Britain, health officials say – CBC News

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British health officials say the monkeypox outbreak across the country “shows signs of slowing,” but that it’s still too soon to know if the decline will be maintained.

In a statement on Monday, the Health Security Agency said authorities are reporting about 29 new monkeypox infections every day, compared to about 52 cases a day during the last week in June. In July, officials estimated the outbreak was doubling in size about every two weeks. To date, the U.K. has recorded more than 3,000 cases of monkeypox, with more than 70 per cent of cases in London.

The agency also said more than 27,000 people have been immunized with a vaccine designed against smallpox, a related disease.

“These thousands of vaccines, administered by the [National Health Service] to those at highest risk of exposure, should have a significant impact on the transmission of the virus,” the agency said.

It said the vast majority of cases were in men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men and that vaccines were being prioritized for them and for their closest contacts and health workers.

Last month, Britain downgraded its assessment of the monkeypox outbreak after seeing no signs of sustained monkeypox transmission beyond the sexual networks of men who have sex with men; 99 per cent of infections in the U.K. are in men.

British authorities said they bought 150,000 doses of vaccine made by Bavarian Nordic, the world’s only supplier. The first 50,000 doses have already been rolled out or will be shared soon with clinics across the country, and the next 100,000 vaccines are expected to be delivered in September.

WATCH | Canada records more than 1,000 monkeypox cases: 

Canada now has more than 1,000 monkeypox cases

5 days ago

Duration 2:02

As Canada hits more than 1,000 cases of Monkeypox, public health officials say we have enough vaccine supply. In the U.S., health officials are giving smaller doses of the monkeypox vaccine to stretch limited supplies.

Canada will use wastewater testing to track disease 

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has repeatedly declined to provide the number of monkeypox vaccines Canada has in the national stockpile, citing security concerns, despite providing that number for other vaccines and other countries sharing that information.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said during a news conference Friday that Canada has so far deployed 99,000 vaccines to provinces and territories. 

She said that it was “too soon to tell” if cases were slowing in Canada, although there may be “some early signs” that they are not increasing at the same rate as during the beginning of the outbreak.

There are now 1,059 monkeypox cases across Canada, with the bulk of them in Ontario and Quebec, and Tam said Canada will soon move to testing wastewater in different regions of the country to better track the spread of the disease, building off the infrastructure developed to monitor COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Anyone can become infected with monkeypox through multiple forms of close, physical contact with an infected person’s lesions, including skin-to-skin contact such as touching or sex, as well as through respiratory droplets in a conversation, or even being exposed to contaminated clothes or bedding. 

Most people recover without needing treatment, but the lesions can be extremely painful and more severe cases can result in complications including brain inflammation and death.

Globally, there have been more than 31,000 cases of monkeypox reported in nearly 90 countries. Last month, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak to be a global emergency and officials in the U.S. have classified the epidemic there as a national emergency, but Canada has not followed suit. 

Outside of Africa, 98 per cent of cases are in men who have sex with men. With only a limited global supply of vaccines, authorities are racing to stop monkeypox before it becomes entrenched as a new disease.

Tam said more than 99 per cent of monkeypox cases in Canada are in men and the median age of those infected is 35. Late last month, PHAC urged gay and bisexual men to practise safe sex and limit the number of sexual partners, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus among sexual networks.

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