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Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July – KitchenerToday.com

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VANCOUVER — Health care workers in Canada made up about 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections as of late July, a figure that was higher than the global average.

In a report released earlier this month, the Canadian Institute for Health Information said 19.4 per cent of those who tested positive for the virus as of July 23 were health-care workers. Twelve health care workers, nine from Ontario and three from Quebec, died from COVID-19, it said.

The World Health Organization said in July that health-care workers made up 10 per cent of global COVID-19 infections.

A national federation of nurses’ unions blames the infection rate on a slow response to the pandemic, a shortage of labour and a lack of personal protective equipment. 

Mahi Etminan, a registered oncology nurse who was working at a hospital in Vancouver in mid-March, says she doesn’t know how she was infected by COVID-19.

“It could have been anywhere in the hospital,” she said.

“In March, we weren’t required to really wear any masks or anything.”

Etminan said she has tested negative for the virus twice but still feels the after-effects of her illness. She tires easily, has lost her sense of taste — even salt — and is losing chunks of her hair.

She agrees with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions that proper precautions weren’t put in place to deal with COVID-19.

“I think we were behind in putting a proper protocol in place,” Etminan said.

Linda Silas, president of the 200,000-member nurses’ federation, said Canadian hospitals approached COVID-19 based on the findings of a 2003 Ontario government commission into SARS.

“I thought we were ready,” Silas said in an interview.

“And then mid-March, early March, we realized how unready we were. And that’s one of the reasons that we have one of the highest levels of health-care workers getting infected.”

She said with the routes of transmission for the virus being uncertain — and later research showing it was possible the virus could be airborne — it was critical that health care workers get full protection.

The Ontario government convened the commission to investigate the origin, spread and response to SARS. One of the key recommendations of the report was improving the safety of health-care workers.

Ontario Health Ministry spokesman David Jensen said lessons learned from SARS have been implemented, including giving more powers to the chief medical officer of health to issue directives to workers and organizations.

The province recommends health-care workers use appropriate precautions when conducting clinical assessments, testing and caring for patients who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, he said.

The approach to the novel coronavirus was taken on a precautionary basis because little information was available about its transmission and clinical severity, Jensen said in an email response to questions.

“The majority of cases are linked to person-to-person transmission through close direct contact with someone who has COVID-19. There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through the airborne route.”

The World Health Organization acknowledged in July the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions.

It said those most at risk from airborne spread are doctors and nurses who perform specialized procedures, such as inserting a breathing tube or putting patients on a ventilator.

Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of population and public health, said COVID-19 doesn’t fit the traditional airborne model where viruses remain infectious over long distances and time periods.

“There’s been a little bit of an evolution in our understanding of the transmission,” he said, adding there was evidence as early as March that showed the virus can be transmitted via air.

While early on more attention was paid to surface transmission, it now seems as though the airborne route is more prominent, he said.

Health Canada spokeswoman Tammy Jarbeau said long-term care facilities and retirement homes were among the hardest hit during the peak of COVID-19 in the spring, likely affecting health-care workers.

The federal government is working with the Canadian Institute for Health Information to better understand the virus, including expanding case data for health-care workers.

The Quebec government said the high rate of community contamination in the province coupled with a labour shortage at the beginning of the pandemic affected health-care workers who were working in several long-term care homes to maintain essential services.

“In recent months, Quebec has gone through an unprecedented health crisis,” said Robert Maranda, a spokesman for the ministry of health and social services.

The plan to deal with COVID-19 was based mainly on the experience gleaned from the 2009 swine flu pandemic, he said.

“However, H1N1 influenza is not the same virus that we are currently fighting against,” Maranda said.

“A person with COVID-19 can transmit the virus without having any symptoms, which is not the case with the flu.”

But as more is known about the new coronavirus, he said the province’s response has changed, including no longer allowing health-care workers to work in different places.

Silas said the nurses’ federation has started an investigation led by a former senior adviser to the SARS commission into why Canada didn’t better protect health-care workers from COVID-19. The report is expected later this year.

The Public Health Agency has done a poor job of gathering data about health-care workers infected with COVID-19, she said, adding that the federation has relied on data collected by Statistics Canada.

“There’s this lack of information flowing,” Silas said.

Natalie Mohamed, a spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency, said 25 per cent of all reported cases were among people who describe themselves as working in health care and it has been collecting data from the provinces and territories since March.

Those who identify themselves as health-care workers include physicians, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists, residential home workers, cleaners, janitorial staff and volunteers.

Some health-care workers may also be getting infected outside work, Mohamed said, although exposure data is incomplete.

The associate executive director of the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which provides advice and assistance in medical-legal matters to doctors, said it began fielding concerns from members about a lack of protective equipment when the virus started spreading.

Dr. Todd Watkins said the questions have shifted to how things will be handled in the future.

“Will there be a second wave and how am I going to respond to that? Is my clinic prepared for that? Will there be appropriate protective gear?”

Christine Nielsen, chief executive officer of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, said the flow of information is affected by the fact the provinces and territories deliver health care and they could collect data differently.

“There’s room for improvement with how public health has responded,” she said. “Just the scale of the pandemic has really caught everyone off guard.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 19, 2020.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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Flu vaccine available soon at public health clinics – Smithers Interior News

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It’s that time of the year again. Flu shot clinics are starting to be offered in the Bulkley Valley. Avoiding the flu is especially top of mind for most people as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is still being passed around.

Northwest Medical Health Officer and Acting Northeast Medical Health Officer Dr. Raina Fumerton said this year it is more important than ever to get the flu shot, not only to protect yourself but others around you and healthcare workers.

“There is no COVID vaccine yet,” she said. “But we do have a safe and effective flu vaccine and that will help to take influenza out of the mix of the respiratory season. In the midst of a global pandemic, it is important to get vaccinated against the flu.”

She is expecting more people than normal to roll up their sleeves this fall.

“People are anxious about having multiple circulating viruses around and knowing that there isn’t a vaccine for COVID-19, at least knowing that they can do something to reduce their risk of influenza and help reduce the potential for a co-infection of influenza and Covid at the same time.”

Dr. Fumerton hasn’t heard any predictions about the upcoming flu season and if it will be a banner year or not but also has not been made aware to anticipate anything unusual.

She added there are some ways to stay healthy this season.

“Aside from getting the flu shot, which I recommended anyone who is six months or older do — unless there is some sort of medical contraindication, the best way to protect yourself is get that shot, stay home if you are sick, follow all the health precautions including washing your hands.”

Beginning the week of November 2, the seasonal influenza vaccine will be available through Northern Health during flu clinics to be held in the gymnasium of Smithers Christian Reformed Church on Walnut Street. There are different days depending on age and last name. For a full list of details visit immunizebc.ca

Some pharmacies in Smithers have already started giving out the vaccine.

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Ottawa Public Health flu shot clinics open, new appointments available at 9 a.m. – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Ottawa residents will be able to roll up their sleeves and get the flu shot starting today at Ottawa Public Health clinics across the city.

The health unit will also release more appointment slots for the flu shot at 9 a.m., after the first seven days were booked within 18 hours last week.

Flu shot clinics will operate by appointment-only at six locations across the city seven-days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The flu shot clinic locations are:

  • Notre-Dame-Des-Champs Community Hall, 3659 Navan Road, Orléans
  • Ottawa Public Library-Orleans Branch, 1705 Orléans Blvd., Orléans
  • Lansdowne – Horticulture Building, 1525 Princess Patricia, Glebe
  • Mary Pitt Centre, 100 Constellation Dr., Nepean
  • Chapman Mills Community Building, 424 Chapman Mills Drive, Barrhaven
  • Eva James Memorial Centre, 65 Stonehaven Drive, Kanata

All six flu shot clinic locations will be appointment only, and no walk-up appointments are available.

Last Thursday, the health unit launched the appointment system to book a slot at the six clinics for the first seven days of the flu shot clinics from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4. Nearly 10,000 people booked an appointment for the first seven days within 18 hours.

Approximately 1,500 spaces are available daily at the six flu shot clinic locations. 

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told reporters this week that new appointments will become available to book online starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The flu shot clinics will continue until everyone gets the flu shot that wants to get a flu shot.

Ottawa Public Health’s goal is to have 70 per cent of the population receive the flu shot this fall and winter.

For more information about the flu vaccine and to book an appointment, visit www.ottawapublichealth.ca/flu

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Man in his 90s one of two new COVID-19 cases in Kingston region – St. Thomas Times-Journal

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A resident and an employee at an Amherstview seniors and long-term care home are in isolation after Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health deemed them positive for COVID-19.

The home, Helen Henderson Care Centre, declared an outbreak on Wednesday as a result. It said in a news release that the resident and staff member are asymptomatic and isolating. No other staff or residents are showing symptoms, the home said.

It said the resident tested positive but the staff member received a negative swab. The home did not explain why public health declared the staff member a positive case. Jenn Fagan, spokesperson for public health, said it is still under investigation why the staff member was deemed positive.

On Wednesday, public health announced two new cases of the virus in the region. One is a man in his 20s, who caught the virus from an already positive close contact, and the other is a man in his 90s. The authority also announced two new recoveries, keeping the active case count at seven.

The man in his 90s is the oldest resident in the region to test positive. The next youngest were nine people in their 70s.

The public health authority is also asking some Kingston Transit riders to monitor themselves for symptoms after a fellow passenger tested positive for the virus. Fagan would not say when the passenger in question tested positive.

“For confidentiality reasons, we are not able to share any identifying information of any of case or potential case outside of the established contact tracing and case management procedures,” she said.

The ill passenger rode Kingston Transit north on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to noon and south between 4 and 5 p.m.; north on Wednesday between 1 and 2 p.m. and south between 6 and 7 p.m.; north on Thursday between 9 and 10 a.m. and south between 2 and 3 p.m.; and north on Friday between noon and 1 p.m. and south between 5 and 6 p.m.

Anyone who rode Route 1 during these times should monitor themselves until Nov. 6, which is 14 days after the last risk of exposure, public health said.

“The individual with a COVID-19 infection wore a face covering during all bus trips — and most likely other riders also did due to the mandatory requirement for face coverings — which can reduce the possibility of infection transmission to others,” public health said.

The Kingston region has had 182 cases of the virus since March of this year. While the cases were first found in a variety of ages, recently, the vast majority have been found in people in their 20s.

At the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Board of Health meeting on Wednesday, Megan Carter, local public health’s research associate in knowledge management, provided modelling that showed what might happen to 10 active cases in 20 days using different doubling periods: 14 days, 12 days and “the worst-case scenario” of seven days.

At our current doubling rate of 14 days, by mid-November there could between five and 47 new cases. If the doubling rate decreased to 12 days, there could be between seven and 56 cases, and if it decreased to seven days, there could be between 19 and 130 active cases.

Carter reiterated that the models show only what “might” happen, but the models are important for public health to prepare for the future.

Dr. Mark Mckelvie of Queen’s University’s department of public health and preventative medicine gave a general rundown of the region’s current COVID-19 status. He told the board of the region’s “chain of protection.”

The chain included the various different community members, including families, businesses, public health, hospitals, long-term care, military, correctional services and many others. He explained that all linked together, everyone needs to fulfil their roles to keep the region in its bubble.

“We really appreciate what people are doing and we thank the community for their co-operation,” Mckelvie said, adding that what everyone is doing is “saving lives.”

He then reminded the board that many of the cases in the region are connected to someone who has travelled, so staying local continues to be important.

The public health dashboard states 26 of the area’s cases caught the virus while traveling, 112 caught the virus from a close contact who had already tested positive, information is still pending for three cases and public health has found no epidemiological link for 41 local cases.

Mckelvie also spoke to the board about public health’s seasonal influenza strategy. He told the board that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization estimates that about 12,200 Canadians are hospitalized and 3,500 die every year of influenza. Last year, 42,537 Canadians tested positive for the flu. Those at the most risk are the elderly, the very young, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions.

While the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington area has been above the provincial vaccination rate of about 40 per cent, Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health, has set the goal of vaccinating 60 per cent of the region.

The local public health authority has been allocated 72,000 vaccines by the province to distribute, in addition to the more than 16,700 allocated to local pharmacies.

scrosier@postmedia.com

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