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Lyme disease a concern as Toronto tick testing program cancelled due to COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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With COVID-19 dominating public health units around the world, Toronto Public Health has quietly suspended a program that protects residents against another dangerous infectious disease: Lyme. 

At a time when more people ventured outdoors during pandemic lockdowns, the City of Toronto stopped its tick surveillance program, which monitors those very outdoor spaces for Blacklegged ticks.

Known as tick dragging, the process is completed in the spring and fall in areas that have natural habitats for the insects. Some of the city’s most popular parks are combed, including High Park, Taylor Creek and Centre Island. Ticks are collected, documented and tested for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

But the program hasn’t happened since 2019 and there is no indication when it will resume.

“Tick surveillance was among the suspended City of Toronto services in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” a city spokesperson wrote to CBC Toronto. “We will keep the public informed when these public health services resume.”

Deer ticks are smaller than the common brown dog tick and can be vectors for Lyme disease. (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via The Associated Press)

The lack of surveillance is concerning for those with first hand experience dealing with Lyme disease.

“I find it really disappointing. Ticks don’t go away because there’s this other health concern in the headlines,” said Samantha Simon, whose daughter Emily was bitten by a tick in 2017 in the community of Durham in West Grey County.

She was two years old at the time, became “very, very sick” and was eventually diagnosed with Lyme disease. Treatment involved seeing a specialist in British Columbia and taking antibiotics for two years. Emily still has lingering symptoms including occasional headaches and joint pain.

The Lyme disease diagnosis wasn’t easy and took three months to be confirmed. Simon worries with less tick surveillance and documentation in Toronto, Lyme disease won’t be “on the radar” of physicians and infections will go unnoticed.

“Doctors aren’t on the lookout for Lyme disease when people are presenting themselves with symptoms because we don’t have that surveillance happening,” Simon said in an interview.

“It’s really sad to see.”

Samantha Simon with her family. Her young daughter, Emily, was bitten by a tick in 2017 and diagnosed with Lyme disease. (Submitted by Samantha Simon)

In 2019, the most recent year for data, there were 1,158 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Ontario, resulting in 36 hospitalizations, according to Public Health Ontario.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s University Health Network, agrees that less surveillance may mean more cases of Lyme will go undiagnosed. 

He says it has a “broad range” of symptoms and with Lyme disease on the rise in Canada, the data that surveillance programs provide can help physicians pinpoint the illness.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch says many health care providers are missing the “broad symptoms” of Lyme disease and tick surveillance programs can help them pinpoint the illness. (Submitted by Isaac Bogoch)

“Programs like these are instrumental in helping us understand where people can get Lyme,” Bogoch said in an interview.

The latest data and studies on Lyme disease do not include the period impacted by COVID-19, but Bogoch expects to see an increase, especially in the heavily-locked down summer of 2020, when many people sought outdoor experiences in parks and campgrounds. 

“We need to map out where Lyme is, it’s as simple as that. It’s very useful.”

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Covid-19: World health officials offer hope that Omicron wave will increase global immunity – Hindustan Times

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  • The encouraging trends after two years of coronavirus misery have brought a noticeably hopeful tone from health experts. Rosy predictions have crumbled before, but this time they are backed by what could be called Omicron’s silver lining. 

Covid-19: World health officials offer hope that Omicron wave will increase global immunity(Bhushan Koyande)
Published on Jan 25, 2022 08:59 AM IST
AP | | Posted by Krishna Priya Pallavi, Delhi

World health officials are offering hope that the ebbing of the omicron wave could give way to a new, more manageable phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, even as they warn of difficult weeks ahead and the possibility of another, more dangerous variant arising.

In the US, cases have crested and are dropping rapidly, following a pattern seen in Britain and South Africa, with researchers projecting a period of low spread in many countries by the end of March. Though US deaths — now at 2,000 each day — are still rising, new hospital admissions have started to fall, and a drop in deaths is expected to follow.

The encouraging trends after two years of coronavirus misery have brought a noticeably hopeful tone from health experts. Rosy predictions have crumbled before, but this time they are backed by what could be called Omicron’s silver lining: The highly contagious variant will leave behind extremely high levels of immunity.

On Sunday, Dr Anthony Fauci talked on ABC This Week about a “best-case scenario” where Covid-19 would fall to manageable levels so the United States could get “back to a degree of normality.”

And on Monday, the World Health Organization issued a statement anticipating an end to the “emergency phase” of the pandemic this year and saying that the omicron variant “offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization.”

Both Fauci and the WHO’s Europe regional director, Dr Hans Kluge, cautioned that new variants are likely to emerge, but with vaccination, new drug therapies and — during surges — testing and masks, the world could reach a less disruptive level of disease in which the virus is, as Fauci put it, “essentially integrated into the general respiratory infections that we have learned to live with.”

In the US, new cases are averaging a still extraordinarily high 680,000 a day, down from an all-time peak of over 800,000 a little more than a week ago.

The places in the US where omicron struck first are seeing the sharpest declines. New cases in the Northeast are nose-diving, while other states — Arizona, Texas, Oregon, Kansas and North Dakota among them — are still waiting for relief.

Falling, too, are new US hospital admissions of patients with confirmed Covid-19. They are averaging nearly 20,000 per day, down about 7 per cent from the previous week, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those numbers include patients who went to the hospital for other reasons and tested positive. But even after accounting for these incidental infections, the trend is hopeful.

One influential model projects that nearly all nations will be past the omicron wave by mid-March, including China and other countries with “zero Covid” policies. The wave will leave behind high levels of immunity — both from infection and vaccination — that could lead to low levels of transmission for many weeks or months.

“What do we end up with at the end of this?” said Dr Christopher Murray of the University of Washington, who developed the closely watched Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model. “We end up with the highest levels of global immunity that we’ve seen in the pandemic.”

The model estimates that 57% of the world’s population already has been infected with the virus at least once.

Another research group, which combines several models and shares the projections with the White House, predicts a strong decline in US infections by April, unless a new variant emerges that can sidestep the growing levels of immunity.

“It would be dangerous to forget that possibility, as it has caught us before,” said Katriona Shea of Pennsylvania State University, a leader of the team that pulls together the models.

She noted, too, that the projections show 16,000 to 98,000 more Americans dying before the omicron wave is through. The US death toll stands at close to 870,000.

“Even if we project a more optimistic future, right now we still have a lot of Covid spreading, a lot of strain in our hospital systems, and our deaths have not yet peaked,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas Covid-19 Modeling Consortium.

“There’s still a lot of pain before omicron has run its course,” she said, but added: “It’s very plausible that omicron will be a turning point in terms of our relationship with this virus.”

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus

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Britain said on Tuesday it needed to recruit 6,000 more people onto a trial of Merck‘s COVID-19 antiviral pill molnupiravir to inform how the drug can be rolled out more widely.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news.

AMERICAS

* The U.S. health regulator revised the emergency use authorisations for COVID-19 antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly to limit their use, as the drugs are unlikely to work against the Omicron variant.

* Brazil had 83,340 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 259 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

* Chile, which already boasts one of the world’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, has agreed to purchase 2 million vaccine doses from Moderna, Chilean interim health minister Maria Teresa Valenzuela said.

* A New York judge struck down the state’s mask mandate, one week before it was due to expire, ruling the governor overstepped her authority in imposing a rule that needed to have been passed by the state legislature.

EUROPE

* The head of the World Health Organization warned that it was dangerous to assume the Omicron variant would herald the end of COVID-19’s acutest phase, exhorting nations to stay focused to beat the pandemic.

* Germany extended its current pandemic measures as the experts panel appointed by the government has warned the Omicron variant could bring critical infrastructure in Europe’s biggest economy to a breaking point.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* South Korea’s daily count of new coronavirus cases topped 8,000 for the first time, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly despite the recent extension of strict social-distancing rules to slow infection.

* Japan is set to more than double the number of regions under enhanced coronavirus curbs on Tuesday, even as it sought to modify strategies to contend with the infectious Omicron variant that has fuelled record numbers of cases.

* About two dozen cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among the crew of an Australian warship expected to arrive in coronavirus-free Tonga on Wednesday to deliver humanitarian aid, Australian authorities said.

AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST

* Israel’s health minister said he did not think Israel will offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to most people after the government made it available to over 60s and other high-risk groups.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Omicron can survive longer than earlier versions of the coronavirus on plastic surfaces and human skin, Japanese researchers found in laboratory tests.

* A third booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson increases antibody levels significantly in those who have previously received two doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac shot, a study has found.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Australia’s core inflation flew to its fastest annual pace since 2014 in the December quarter as fuel and housing costs led broad-based price pressures, a shock that will stoke market speculation of an early hike in interest rates.

* South Korea’s economy expanded at the fastest pace in 11 years in 2021, helped by a jump in exports and construction activity, tempering declines in capital investment and a slow recovery in the coronavirus-hit service sectors.

* A measure of Australian business confidence has swung into the red as a surge in coronavirus cases hit consumer spending and played havoc with staffing, though sales overall were proving resilient so far.

 

(Compiled by Sherry Jacob-Phillips; Edited by Shounak Dasgupta)

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Sinovac regimen gets strong boost from Pfizer, AstraZeneca or J&J COVID shots – study

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A third booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson increases antibody levels significantly in those who have previously received two doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac shot, a study has found.

The study found that CoronaVac received the strongest boost from a viral vector or RNA shot, including against the Delta and Omicron coronavirus variants, researchers from Brazil and Oxford University said on Monday.

China-based Sinovac’s vaccine uses an inactivated version of a coronavirus strain that was isolated from a patient in China. It is currently approved in more than 50 countries including Brazil, China, Argentina, South Africa, Oman, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey.

“This study provides important options for policymakers in the many countries where inactivated vaccines … have been used,” said Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and study lead.

However, another study in December found that Sinovac’s two-dose shot followed by a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine showed a lower immune response against the Omicron variant compared with other strains.

Viral vector vaccines such as the ones developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford and J&J use a weakened version of another virus to deliver genetic instructions for making proteins from the virus against which protection is sought. Pfizer and BioNTech’s mRNA vaccines deliver a genetic transcript with instructions for making viral proteins to teach the body how to defend against infections.

A third dose of CoronaVac also increased antibodies, but the results were better when a different vaccine was used, according to the latest study that included 1,240 volunteers from the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Salvador.

Antibody levels were low before the booster doses, with only 20.4% of adults aged 18-60 and 8.9% of adults aged over 60 having detectable levels of neutralising antibodies. These were seen to significantly increase across every booster vaccine regimen, according to the study, which was published in the Lancet medical journal on Friday.

 

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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