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'It's safe': Canadians urged to continue donating blood amid coronavirus spread – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canadian Blood Services says there has been a “worrying” spike in cancellations of appointments to donate blood amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the non-profit charity which is responsible for the national blood system outside of Quebec, made a public plea to donors asking them to book and keep appointments. The organization said there is a constant need for blood, stem cells, plasma, and organ and tissue donors.

“Patients depend on these lifesaving donations,” Dr. Isra Levy, Canadian Blood Services’ vice-president of medical affairs and innovation, said in a press release. “Every day they are needed for patients undergoing surgery and cancer treatment, as well as to save lives following traumas such as motor vehicle accidents.”

While the organization said their current inventory of blood is “strong,” that can quickly change.

“The recent increase in cancellations is worrying, particularly in light of the blood shortages already being reported in other countries affected by COVID-19,” the press release said.

Canadian Blood Services also attempted to reassure donors by detailing the extra measures they’re taking to protect against the new coronavirus.

“Donating blood in Canada continues to be safe. Our robust cleaning and infection-control practices protect all donors, staff and volunteers,” the charity said. “All prospective donors are also carefully screened for any symptoms of illness, including very mild ones.”

What’s more, the organization said potential donors are screened when they book their appointment and when they arrive at the donor centre. Those who exhibit symptoms at either of these times are barred from donating blood and visiting the centre.

“Our donor centres are islands of wellness within Canada’s health system,” Levy said. “They are not places where sick people gather.”

Canadian Blood Services said they’re adhering to the latest guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada regarding public gatherings during the pandemic.

“Should the agency’s recommendations change we will act immediately to keep donors safe,” the organization said.

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How Revelstoke handled the Spanish flu – Lake Country Calendar

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This isn’t the first time Revelstoke has gone through a pandemic.

The devastating Spanish flu struck Canada hard 100 years ago. Interestingly, the disease’s name is a misnomer as it didn’t originate on the Iberian Peninsula, but was the result of widespread misunderstanding.

Spain was one of the few countries in Europe to remain neutral during the First World War. Unlike Germany and Britain, where wartime censors suppressed news of the flu to avoid impacting morale, the Spanish media was free to report in gory detail.

Since countries undergoing a media blackout could only read in-depth accounts from Spanish news they assumed the country was the pandemic’s epicentre and the name stuck.

Yet, it’s unknown where the flu originated. The theories vary but include wartime trenches, farmers in Kansas or even Chinese labourers. Regardless, the illness wiped out up to 100 million people between 1918 and 1920, which is more than double those killed in battle during the First World War.

The disease travelled the globe, largely dispersed by returning troops.

In the spring of 1918, the flu arrived in Canada through the ports of Québec City, Montréal and Halifax.

Armistice Parade in Revelstoke, November 11, 1918. Although there was a pandemic on at the time, people still went to some gatherings and stood shoulder to shoulder. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

Cathy English, curator for the Revelstoke museum, said there were 6,000 people at that time in the Revelstoke area. There were no roads from Sicamous or Golden, so it’s likely the disease arrived by train.

By October, the city had its first death. Mike Bzulynski died at the age of 26. The following day Harry Turnross, 23, died. Two days later, Mrs. Antje Versteegh, 74, followed.

The deaths continued, sometimes daily, for the next several months. The outbreak killed the young and healthy, turning their strong immune system against them in a way that was unusual for flu.

According to reports, some people died within hours of becoming ill, their skin turned blue and their lungs filled with fluids, causing them to suffocate.

“The nursing staff in Revelstoke were hit particularly hard,” English said.

To stop the spread, churches, theatres and club meetings were disbanded. Schools shut and the teachers became nurses to replace those becoming ill.

“It was a hard time,” English said.

Similar to COVID-19, experts said the widespread transmission of the Spanish flu around the globe was partly due to a lack of immunity in the population. There was also no vaccine.

Queen Victoria Hospital, circa 1919. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

Regardless, newspapers advertised advice and cures. One Revelstoke article suggested soaking cotton balls in alcohol and chloroform, placing it between one’s teeth and inhaling. In 24 hours, the article said the patient should be saved.

Ruby Nobbs wrote in Revelstoke – History and Heritage that everyone in her family fell ill and she was forced to nurse them.

Nobbs was 12 years old at the time. Unlike today, there was little to none government aid. As a result, the Department of Health was created in 1919, from then on, public health was a responsibility shared by all levels of government.

By mid-November, the Revelstoke Review proclaimed the worst was over as deaths slowed.

The flu ban was conditionally lifted, opening schools and churches.

After being fumigated and ventilated, the theatre also reopened with a showing of a Mary Pickford movie.

However, by Christmas, the flu ban was reinstated as the second wave of disease hammered through the city.

By mid-January 1919, bans were lifted permanently. In total, the flu killed 37 people.

While many gatherings were cancelled locally during the Spanish flu, some continued, such as the Armistice parade on Nov. 11, 1918. Photos show folks standing shoulder to shoulder to watch the entertainment and celebrate peace.

“They weren’t social distancing like today,” English said.

She said it appears as if people were not as concerned about congregating.

“Maybe they were just excited to be at the end of war.”

The World War I Armistice Parade marched all over Revelstoke. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3627)

Closures to help stop the spread of disease continued on and off through the 1920s for measles and polio. Yet, English said Revelstoke has never experienced anything to the extent of the closures brought on by COVID-19.

“There have been temporary bans, but nothing like this,” she said.

For now, it’s unknown when normality will return, but the province said it won’t happen this month and most likely not the next.

English wonders how this pandemic will be remembered.

The museum said it’s able to glean what Revelstoke was like during the Spanish flu through newspaper accounts.

Due to plunging advertising revenues caused by the novel coronavirus, media outlets across Canada are closing. For example, on April 2, the Vancouver Courier suspended both its print and online news.

“How will we preserve the memories from this significant event?” English asked.


 

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liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

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Queen Victoria Hospital, circa 1919. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

The World War I Armistice Parade marched all over Revelstoke. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3627)

The Spanish Flu hit Revelstoke in the fall of 1918. Although schools and churches were closed during the Spanish flu pandemic, some large gatherings went ahead. Cathy English, curator at Revelstoke Museum, they were not social distancing like today. This is Armistice Parade in Revelstoke, November 11, 1918. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3638)

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UBC researchers claim find of COVID-19 trial drug – Burnaby Now

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University of British Columbia researchers say they have found a trial drug that blocks the cellular door the virus uses to infect people with COVID-19.

“There is hope for this horrible outbreak,” said UBC Life Sciences Institute director Dr. Josef Penninger.

article continues below

Penninger said the drug might soon be ready for testing.

He said a global team’s work provides new insights into the  SARS-CoV-2 virus and its interactions on a cellular level, as well as how the virus can infect blood vessels and kidneys.

“We are hopeful our results have implications for the development of a novel drug for the treatment of this unprecedented outbreak,” he said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said March 20 that Thailand , Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland will be involved in a multi-country clinical study for potential treatments for COVID-19, part of a rapid global search for drugs to treat COVID-19.

Penninger’s team’s findings were published in the science journal Cell Friday.

Penninger said the finding holds some promise for a treatment capable of stopping early infection of the novel coronavirus that, as of April 4, has affected more than 1.16 million people and claimed the lives of 62,491people worldwide.

The study has involved researchers from Vancouver, Toronto, Spain and Sweden.

Penninger explained that cell membrane-surface protein ACE2 plays a key role in the outbreak.

In earlier work, Penninger and colleagues at the University of Toronto and the Institute of Molecular Biology in Vienna identified ACE2 as the key receptor for SARS, the viral respiratory illness recognized as a global threat in 2003.

What the new finding means, Penninger  said, is that “the absence of a clinically proven antiviral therapy or a treatment specifically targeting the critical SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 on a molecular level has meant an empty arsenal for health care providers struggling to treat severe cases of COVID-19.”

“Our new study provides direct evidence that a drug – called APN01 (human recombinant soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 – hrsACE2) – soon to be tested in clinical trials by the European biotech company Apeiron Biologics, is useful as an antiviral therapy for COVID-19,” said University of Toronto Dr. Art Slutsky, also a scientist at Toronto’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science at St. Michael’s Hospital.

What the researchers found through cell cultures is that the drug inhibited the coronavirus load. Using engineered replicas of human blood vessel and kidneys  – “organoids” grown from human stem cells – the researchers demonstrated the virus can directly infect and duplicate itself in such tissues.

What can be drawn from that, they said, is key information on the disease’s development and that severe cases of COVID-19 can lead to with multi-organ failure and cardiovascular damage.

“Clinical grade hrsACE2 also reduced the SARS-CoV-2 infection in these engineered human tissues,” they said.

 “Using organoids allows us to test in a very agile way treatments that are already being used for other diseases, or that are close to being validated,” said Prof. Núria Montserrat of the Institute for Bioengineering in Catalonia, Spain.

“In these moments in which time is short, human organoids save the time that we would spend to test a new drug in the human setting,” Montserrat said.

“The virus causing COVID-19 is a close sibling to the first SARS virus,” Penninger said. “Our previous work has helped to rapidly identify ACE2 as the entry gate for SARS-CoV-2, which explains a lot about the disease, he said.

“Now, we know that a soluble form of ACE2 could be indeed a very rational therapy that specifically targets the gate the virus must take to infect us.

The WHO team’s work, dubbed Solidarity, will test four different drugs or combinations – remdesivir, a combination of two drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir, the two drugs plus interferon beta, and chloroquine – and will compare their effectiveness to what is called standard of care – the regular support hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

“This global problem requires urgent global solutions,” said WHO’s representative to Thailand, Daniel Kertesz. “The goal is to identify medicines that will save lives in the global battle to fight this virus.”

Research by Penninger’s team was supported in part by the Canadian federal government through emergency funding focused on accelerating the development, testing and implementation of measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo

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UBC researchers claim find of COVID-19 trial drug – Bowen Island Undercurrent

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University of British Columbia researchers say they have found a trial drug that blocks the cellular door the virus uses to infect people with COVID-19.

“There is hope for this horrible outbreak,” said UBC Life Sciences Institute director Dr. Josef Penninger.

article continues below

Penninger said the drug might soon be ready for testing.

He said a global team’s work provides new insights into the  SARS-CoV-2 virus and its interactions on a cellular level, as well as how the virus can infect blood vessels and kidneys.

“We are hopeful our results have implications for the development of a novel drug for the treatment of this unprecedented outbreak,” he said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said March 20 that Thailand , Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland will be involved in a multi-country clinical study for potential treatments for COVID-19, part of a rapid global search for drugs to treat COVID-19.

Penninger’s team’s findings were published in the science journal Cell Friday.

Penninger said the finding holds some promise for a treatment capable of stopping early infection of the novel coronavirus that, as of April 4, has affected more than 1.16 million people and claimed the lives of 62,491people worldwide.

The study has involved researchers from Vancouver, Toronto, Spain and Sweden.

Penninger explained that cell membrane-surface protein ACE2 plays a key role in the outbreak.

In earlier work, Penninger and colleagues at the University of Toronto and the Institute of Molecular Biology in Vienna identified ACE2 as the key receptor for SARS, the viral respiratory illness recognized as a global threat in 2003.

What the new finding means, Penninger  said, is that “the absence of a clinically proven antiviral therapy or a treatment specifically targeting the critical SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 on a molecular level has meant an empty arsenal for health care providers struggling to treat severe cases of COVID-19.”

“Our new study provides direct evidence that a drug – called APN01 (human recombinant soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 – hrsACE2) – soon to be tested in clinical trials by the European biotech company Apeiron Biologics, is useful as an antiviral therapy for COVID-19,” said University of Toronto Dr. Art Slutsky, also a scientist at Toronto’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science at St. Michael’s Hospital.

What the researchers found through cell cultures is that the drug inhibited the coronavirus load. Using engineered replicas of human blood vessel and kidneys  – “organoids” grown from human stem cells – the researchers demonstrated the virus can directly infect and duplicate itself in such tissues.

What can be drawn from that, they said, is key information on the disease’s development and that severe cases of COVID-19 can lead to with multi-organ failure and cardiovascular damage.

“Clinical grade hrsACE2 also reduced the SARS-CoV-2 infection in these engineered human tissues,” they said.

 “Using organoids allows us to test in a very agile way treatments that are already being used for other diseases, or that are close to being validated,” said Prof. Núria Montserrat of the Institute for Bioengineering in Catalonia, Spain.

“In these moments in which time is short, human organoids save the time that we would spend to test a new drug in the human setting,” Montserrat said.

“The virus causing COVID-19 is a close sibling to the first SARS virus,” Penninger said. “Our previous work has helped to rapidly identify ACE2 as the entry gate for SARS-CoV-2, which explains a lot about the disease, he said.

“Now, we know that a soluble form of ACE2 could be indeed a very rational therapy that specifically targets the gate the virus must take to infect us.

The WHO team’s work, dubbed Solidarity, will test four different drugs or combinations – remdesivir, a combination of two drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir, the two drugs plus interferon beta, and chloroquine – and will compare their effectiveness to what is called standard of care – the regular support hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

“This global problem requires urgent global solutions,” said WHO’s representative to Thailand, Daniel Kertesz. “The goal is to identify medicines that will save lives in the global battle to fight this virus.”

Research by Penninger’s team was supported in part by the Canadian federal government through emergency funding focused on accelerating the development, testing and implementation of measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo

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