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Kingston-area avian influenza confirmed as highly pathogenic variant – The Kingston Whig-Standard

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Dead bald eagle in Kingston tested positive for the virus

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As avian influenza continues to affect local wild bird populations, a Napanee wildlife centre has confirmed that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) variant of avian influenza has been identified in the Kingston region.

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According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the HPAI virus, also known as H5N1, was first discovered in Canada in 2021 and has since been found in wild birds in every province and territory.

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Leah Birmingham said Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre received confirmation from the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) that the highly pathogenic version of the avian influenza virus has not only been discovered in dead Canada geese from Kingston, but also other scavenger species as well.

“They’ve now found it in a raven, a crow and (a bald) eagle,” Birmingham said on Friday. “That makes sense, because all of those birds would potentially feed off of the carcasses of dead Canada geese.”

Last week, Sandy Pines received four crows from Kingston showing neurological symptoms.

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“That’s often what you see,” she said. “The water birds typically show a variety of signs of a flu-like disease. But the birds that eat them seem to have more of the neurological signs, like seizures, and less of the upper respiratory ailments.”

In an interview earlier in February, Birmingham told the Whig-Standard that birds showing signs of the virus were being humanely euthanized to limit the risk of spread among the birds who live at or are being rehabilitated at the wildlife centre.

Birmingham said the centre has been sending bird carcasses to the CWHC for viral identification, but lately they’ve been told to stop.

“We’ve already shown positives in the scavenger species essentially,” Birmingham said. “So we know it’s in those bird populations as well.”

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But otherwise, Birmingham said that calls to the wildlife centre about sick birds are on the decline.

“The situation has died down a bit, and it’s just sort of in patches now, not the same intensity,” she said. “That’s a good sign.”

Still, it’s been a record-breaking year in the Kingston region for the virus, Birmingham said.

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health told the Whig-Standard on Friday that as of Feb. 22, 12 birds had tested positive for avian influenza in the region, according to a summary report from the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Of those positive tests, eight of the birds were geese, three were crows and one was an eagle.

It’s not clear how many of those tested positive for the highly pathogenic variant.

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The CFIA, which monitors the spread of HPAI with a careful eye to Canada’s poultry industry, keeps a dashboard of active investigations and positive test results from across the country.

Since the end of January, five active outbreaks are under investigation in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Alberta and Quebec.

Max Kaiser, a commercial egg farmer in Greater Napanee, said he treats every wild bird on his property as if it were infected, taking precautions to protect his commercial flocks.

An infection within a commercial poultry flock can take an extreme financial toll on farmers.

“We take every precaution to keep everything out of the barn, whether it’s changing footwear, changing clothes, disinfecting tools, everything we can do to keep our barns clean from whatever’s outside,” he told the Whig-Standard on Friday. “That could be walking through bird droppings in the barnyards, to wild birds perching on the rooftop. It’s concerning at every level.”

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While Kaiser isn’t losing sleep over the presence of HPAI in the region, and while biosecurity measures are standard practice at Ontario poultry farms, he is taking extra precautions.

“It’s just diligence. Changing footwear is a simple one, but then when our suppliers, like our feed truck and the delivery vehicles, come and go from the barnyard, they have to disinfect, too, even the tires on the trucks as they come up the laneway,” he said.

Kaiser Lake Farms’ egg operation is located on the shores of Hay Bay, an inlet of Lake Ontario.

“Migratory birds are starting to migrate north again, so we’re ramping up,” Kaiser said. “I’m seeing geese in the fields now that weren’t there a week ago. Now that we’re seeing them, we’re back up to full precautions.”

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The Feather Board Command Centre, an organization that provides up-to-date information to Ontario poultry industry members about health risks to commercial bird populations, is recommending heightened biosecurity measures on all of the province’s poultry farms as HPAI moves across the country.

“Currently there are 37 active HPAI cases in Canadian provinces, affecting over 11 million birds,” it said in a news release on Feb. 2. “With the unseasonably warmer weather we have been experiencing, wild birds continue to be on the move and we are seeing increases in wild bird die-offs, increasing the potential risk of disease transmission.”

While HPAI has not been observed to infect humans, some mammals have tested positive for the virus, including raccoons, striped skunks, red foxes, cats and dogs, the CFIA stated on its website.

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“While HPAI is primarily a disease of birds, it can also infect mammals, especially those who hunt, scavenge or otherwise consume infected birds,” the agency wrote. “For example, cats that go outdoors may hunt and consume an infected bird, or dogs may scavenge dead birds. In 2023, a dog in Canada was infected with avian influenza after chewing on a wild goose, and died after developing clinical signs.”

KFL&A Public Health recommends on its website that people who discover dead birds on their property wear protective gear while handling bird carcasses, and either bury the bird at a minimum of one metre deep, or double bag and dispose of the carcass in the garbage. Those who discover a dead bird on public property should contact their municipality, the organization said.

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Birmingham said people should try, if they can, to bury the carcasses. This prevents the spread of the virus among other animal populations, as well as protect domestic pets that may come in contact with a dead bird.

Still, with its potential threat to both wild birds and commercial operations, Birmingham is urging people not to panic abut the virus.

“I don’t want the public to freak out about all wild birds,” she admitted. “There are all kinds of diseases that wildlife can be the reservoir for and carry. Some of them are manmade because of people bringing animals from one continent to another. And others happen naturally, because of high-density populations of animals … in a way this is nature’s way of sort of taking care of dense populations of animals, right?

“I just don’t want people to be so petrified that their dog or cat is going to get this virus because there were crows in their backyards. It’s not that simple.”

mbalogh@postmedia.com

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Texas Agriculture Chief Says Bird Flu Concerns Are ‘Overhyped’

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Concerns about avian influenza cases among dairy cows in Texas have been “a little bit overhyped” as its spread can be contained, according to the state’s top agriculture official.

Texas hasn’t seen any further infections in almost three weeks, and new transmissions from migrating waterfowl are unlikely as birds have headed north, according to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. What’s more, contagion through contaminated milk can be easily avoided by disinfecting equipment used in barns, he added.

“We’re over the hump,” Miller said in an interview Thursday. “We can take measures to stop that.”

Read More: Bird Flu Spooks Meat, Milk Traders as Virus Hits Dairy Cows

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The infection of cows by the same virus strain that emerged in Europe in 2020 — and has since caused an unprecedented number of deaths in wild birds and poultry globally — has raised concerns that the outbreak may hurt demand for dairy and beef and disrupt supplies.

Miller said only 10% of milking cows in the state have been infected by bird flu, and that little milk has been thrown away so there is not a shortage of the staple. While no infected dairy has entered the food chain, consumption of pasteurized milk as well as cooked eggs is safe.

“If you’re worried about it, cook your eggs and make sure you get your milk pasteurized,” Miller said.

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HHS cancer patient launching “Your Match Matters” to find young stem cell donors

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HHS cancer patient Peter Clarke (left) is launching a Your Match Matters campaign to encourage people ages 17 to 35 from diverse backgrounds to become stem cell donors. The avid cyclist is pictured here with his son Hayden.

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After being diagnosed with a rare type of bone marrow cancer two years ago, Dundas resident Peter Clarke was inspired to create Your Match Matters, a non-profit organization that encourages people ages 17 to 35 from diverse backgrounds to join the Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry. Donors in that age range give patients undergoing a stem cell transplant the best chance of long-term survival, and many people worldwide have difficulty finding a match due to a lack of diversity in stem cell registries.

“Canada has a great opportunity to expand the number of donors from diverse backgrounds.” — Dr. Tobias Berg, HHS hematologist

Stem cell donations can treat over 80 diseases and disorders, including leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers. The Your Match Matters website provides a link to Canada’s stem cell registry, where volunteer donors are matched with patients nationally and around the world who need a transplant.

Dr. Tobias Berg, HHS hematologist

Dr. Tobias Berg, HHS hematologist

“It’s a common belief that the best match always comes from a close blood relative, such as a sibling, but most patients don’t have matched family donors,” says Dr. Tobias Berg, a hematologist at Hamilton Health Sciences’ Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC).

“A young matched unrelated donor can in some instances be an even better choice than an older related donor, so it’s extremely important to recruit young donors from diverse backgrounds.”

Leading centre

The JHCC is one of just three centres in the province to provide all forms of stem cell transplants to adult cancer patients. In 2020, the hematology service expanded with the opening of the Ron and Nancy Clark Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapies Unit for patients needing treatment for blood cancers.

Peter Clarke, HHS patient and stem cell donation advocate

Though Clarke, 59, will eventually need a transplant, he wasn’t motivated to launch Your Match Matters because of a personal search for a donor. “Four potential matches have already been found for me,” says the retired environmental consultant. Instead, he hopes to help unmatched patients in Canada and around the world find a donor.

Right now in Canada, nearly 1,000 people need a stem cell transplant.

“I was hearing stories of families frantically looking for matches for their family members,” says Clarke. “I couldn’t imagine the panic and helplessness they felt, and wanted to help change the odds.”

Your Match Matters launch party

Your Match Matters officially launches on April 19 at 7 p.m. with an in-person event at Millworks Creative in Dundas. The evening includes guest speakers and a video featuring Clarke’s story, as well as a video presentation by Berg. The public is encouraged to attend to learn more about becoming a donor, and Clarke is especially interested in attracting a 17-to-35-year-old crowd from diverse backgrounds.

Registering to donate is easy and painless

Clarke also plans to attend community events to promote stem cell donations to that target age group. An avid cyclist, he tested the promotional waters last fall with an information table at a gravel bike race in Haliburton, where many participants were in the target age range. Sixteen riders joined the registry that day, while visiting Clarke’s information table.

Avid cyclists Peter Clarke and his son Hayden plan to promote stem cell donation at in-person events.

“It wasn’t a large number, but it’s 16 more donors than previously existed on the registry,” says Clarke. “The more people that join, the better chance a person needing a stem cell transplant has of finding a match.”

He’ll be at the Mississauga Dragon Boat Festival on June 9 and the 24 Hours  Summer Solstice on June 22-23 at Albion Hills Conservation Park in Caledon.

The Canadian registry is part of an international network of registries including more than 80 participating countries, with over 40 million donors from around the world.

Once a person registers to become a donor through the Canadian registry’s website, they’ll receive a free swab kit delivered to their address in one to three weeks.

The donor collects a sample by gently swabbing the insides of their cheeks, and mailing the sample to the registry free of charge. It can take months or years to find a match, so donors are asked to keep their health and contact information up to date.

Building a diverse donor base 

The Canadian registry is part of an international network of registries including more than 80 participating countries, with over 40 million donors from around the world. It coordinates searches in Canada and with other international registries to help patients get the stem cells they need. Yet in spite of its size and scope, a match for a patient in Canada can only be found about 50 per cent of the time. Right now in Canada, nearly 1,000 people need a stem cell transplant.

“Canada has a great opportunity to expand the number of donors from diverse backgrounds,” says Berg. “Few countries in the world have as much genetic diversity as Canada, with people moving here from different cultural and regional backgrounds worldwide.”

A second cancer diagnosis

Clarke was diagnosed with two separate cancers within a few months of each other. The first diagnosis, in December 2021, was for kidney cancer.

“On January 25, 2022, most of my left kidney was removed,” says Clarke, who four months later was diagnosed with myelofibrosis – a second, separate cancer. Clarke was on his way to the Toronto airport for a cycling holiday on the Spanish island of Mallorca when he received a phone call with test results confirming the myelofibrosis diagnosis. “It was a visceral earthquake in my life,” says Clarke. “I was shaking. I couldn’t hold onto my suitcase or my keys.”

Clarke continued with his trip despite being completely rocked by the news, and upon returning, he met with Berg, his hematologist, for the first time and learned that a stem cell transplant could offer a potential cure.

For many diseases where a stem cell transplant is recommended, there’s a 50 to 60 percent of being cured, says Berg, adding that with some diseases, it’s as high as 80 to 90 percent.

Though four good matches were identified for Clarke, he won’t move forward with the transplant until his health begins to decline.

“For this condition, the need for a transplant depends on the progression of the disease and ability of the bone marrow to generate enough blood cells,” says Berg.

Transplants involve several days of chemotherapy leading up to the procedure, followed by months of recovery. “Right now I feel fine,” says Clarke, who is heading back to Mallorca later this month for another cycling trip. “I’m taking life one day at a time until I get to the point where I need the transplant. And I’m using this stretch of good health to launch Your Match Matters, and recruit new donors.”

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Snoozing science seeks to find out how therapy boosts sleep in breast cancer survivors – CBC.ca

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Dr. Sheila Garland is running a study on how cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia impacts sleep for breast cancer survivors. (Submitted by Dr. Sheila Garland)

A new study at Memorial University is looking into the connection between breast cancer survivors and insomnia by measuring brain waves during sleep.

Dr. Sheila Garland, associate professor of psychology and oncology and a registered clinical psychologist at Memorial University, is collecting data that demonstrates how cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) improves sleep.

As opposed to using drugs to treat insomnia, CBT-I targets the thoughts, behaviours and emotions that can make it hard for people to sleep.

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“We will be able to learn more about how this treatment actually changes the sleeping brain,” Garland told CBC News.

The study uses cerebra, a device worn on the face that measures brain waves. Garland said the device means people can be in their beds as opposed to having to come into a lab to take the readings.

Breast cancer patients can experience insomnia for a number of reasons, she said, in part due to the fact most people who are diagnosed are also experiencing mid-life hormonal changes, as well as the impact that stress and cancer treatment can have on sleep.

Garland is looking to recruit a total of 24 women who live in the St. John’s area and who have completed breast cancer treatment to register for the study.

Woman with brown hair wearing electrodes over her face.
Masters student Emily White demonstrates how the cerebra device is worn. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

Potential participants answer a questionnaire, which contains questions about their moods, sleep, cognition and fatigue. From there, successful applicants undergo performance tests for memory, concentration and emotional functions.

Then they are given a cerebra to take home and wear overnight, which is returned the next day, said Garland.

That’s followed by seven cognitive behavioural therapy sessions over several weeks, and then participants wear the cerebra for another night to see if there were any changes in sleep.

Sleep boosted

Dana Warren, a breast cancer survivor who had insomnia, heard about the study over social media and registered. 

Living with insomnia impacted her quality of life, she said, and she found herself cancelling plans and frequently worried if she’d be able to sleep.

“It’s kind of this negative cloud that shows up and, you know, takes away quite a lot of things that help us feel connected, and healthy and engaged and that’s the kind of stuff you need to get back to yourself,” said Warren.

Woman in glasses and hair up.
Dana Warren says prior to taking part in the study she had trouble sleeping. (Submitted by Dana Warren)

However, since participating in weeks of therapy through Garland’s study, she said she’s experienced a marked improvement over her ability to sleep, calling it a “game changer.”

“I am not waking up in the night five or six times anymore. I’m not staying awake for two hours anymore,” Warren said. “If I wake up, I fall back to sleep.”

Before the study, Warren would begin to wind down her day at 9:30 p.m., which she thought was a good sleep habit. Now, she said, she can go to bed at 11 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m.

Her quality of sleep has drastically improved, she said, and now she has the energy to go out at night.

Building on existing research

There is existing research on how sleep improves after CBT-I, but Garland is hoping to expand on that to understand why and how it works, which will also add to subjective self-reporting accounts from women on how the therapy improves their sleep.

“I want to understand how is it that this treatment actually deepens your sleep and that increased sleep depth is related to better memory functioning, better attention, better emotional processing,” said Garland.

“So I want to get at the mechanisms of how it works. So we know it works, but we don’t know how. And that’s why I think that the only way that we’re going to get that is really by, you know, sort of looking at the sleeping brain.”

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