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New Democrats call for independent review of government’s COVID-19 response

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OTTAWA — It’s time for Canadians to find out how well the federal government handled COVID-19 with a public inquiry into Canada’s pandemic response, says the NDP.

With the final federal public-health restrictions having been lifted in September, NDP health critic Don Davies said it’s about time for the government to look back at whether appropriate actions were taken to manage the crisis.

It’s time to have a proper, comprehensive, full examination of the federal preparedness and response. And the only way to do that is by calling an official inquiry,” he said in an interview.

Davies said it was clear at the onset of the pandemic that Canada was not well-equipped to handle the strain caused by COVID-19. He said a public inquiry can answer questions about everything from the early detection of the virus to personal protective equipment shortages and domestic vaccine production capabilities.

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“It’s to hold those who made decisions accountable, to learn from this unprecedented experience and to be better prepared for the future,” he said.

The first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Canada at the end of January 2020 and the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic two months later in March.

Since then, public health restrictions have ebbed and flowed with pandemic waves, and have included vaccine mandates for public servants, workers in federally regulated industries and travellers, border closures and mandatory COVID-19 tests for travellers.

The government also offered financial support to people who could not work or lost their jobs during the pandemic, and to businesses that suffered financial losses when people were told to stay at home to prevent the spread of infection.

The NDP wants to see a review that is broad in scope, conducted in public and at arm’s-length from government.

In a news conference on Monday, Davies said everyone who had a role in decision-making should be heard from.

“There’s no Canadian that is exempt from being answerable to the Canadian public,” he said.

NDP and Conservative MPs recently asked the country’s chief public health officer about a possible review of the government’s handling of the pandemic, at a meeting of the House of Commons health committee.

Dr. Theresa Tam told them the decision is not up to her, but said it is important to learn from the biggest pandemic of the current era.

“It is very important to take note of lessons learned and be as objective as we can,” Tam told the health committee on Oct. 18.

“The inputs from a variety of experts on what went well, as well as what could be improved, are important to set us up well for our response going into the future, given that pandemics will occur again.”

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has also spoken about the importance of a review, but has not said when it would happen, or whether it would be independent from government. His office did not immediately provide a response to the NDP’s proposal Monday.

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning announced plans on Nov. 4 for what he called a “national citizen’s inquiry” into the pandemic response of provincial, federal and municipal governments on behalf of a not-for-profit organization called Citizen’s Inquiry Canada.

The organization has been established to receive and disburse donations to finance the inquiry.

“The magnitude of these interventions demands a comprehensive, transparent and objective inquiry into the appropriateness and efficacy of the measures imposed,” Manning was quoted as saying in a press release.

Manning has said that inquiry would begin next year, with public hearings held in cities across the country.

Davies panned that proposal, saying in a written statement that the Tories “want to play political games with a partisan pandemic panel led by Preston Manning,” and accusing the Liberals of trying to give the “illusion of oversight and accountability” with internal reviews.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2022.

 

Laura Osman and Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

Health

Good Dental Health Essential in Sickle Cell Anemia, Study Finds |… – Sickle Cell Anemia News

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Good oral health is essential in people with sickle cell anemia (SCA), according to a new study from Saudi Arabia that found that several disease-causing bacteria species — including Enterobacteriaceae — were significantly more abundant in a group of patients with poorer dental health than in those with better oral care.

“A healthy mouth has a balance of bacteria, but inadequate oral health narrows the range of bacteria, resulting in oral dysbiosis, a state in which beneficial bacteria decrease and potentially pathogenic [disease-causing] bacteria increase,” the researchers wrote.

The findings also indicated that patients with low levels of hemoglobin F — a type of hemoglobin normally produced during fetal development — had a significantly higher prevalence of harmful bacteria species than those who had higher levels of the protein.

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“Our data further emphasise the importance of routine oral hygiene visits for patients with SCA,” the team wrote, adding, “This is especially important for patients with SCA and low [hemoglobin F], who have a higher probability of hospitalisation and clinical complications compared to patients with SCA and high [hemoglobin F].”

The research’s findings were reported in “Oral microbiota analyses of Saudi sickle cell anemics with dental caries,” a study published in the International Dental Journal

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Examining good versus poor dental health in SCA

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is caused by mutations in the HBB gene that lead to the production of a faulty version of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen through the body. This faulty version is called hemoglobin S.

People with sickle cell anemia or SCA, the most common and often the most severe form of SCD, have two faulty gene copies encoding hemoglobin S.

Complications of dental caries or tooth decay, including acute pain, are often observed in patients with SCA — and have been associated with poor quality of life.

In a healthy mouth, different bacteria species co-exist in a balanced ratio. However, in cases of inadequate oral health, the number of beneficial bacteria decreases, while that of potentially harmful ones increases. This can lead to dental caries, which often result in cavities and other oral health problems.

“Although ample evidence indicates a causative correlation between the disruption of the oral [bacteria] and dental caries, the effect in SCA has not been investigated,” the researchers wrote.

Now, a team from the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia conducted a study to examine oral bacteria composition in people with SCA. Their aim was to compare bacteria species in patients with a high decayed, missing, and filled permanent teeth (DMTF) index — a measure of dental health — compared with others who had a low index.

In addition, they evaluated the effect of hemoglobin F levels on bacterial composition by comparing the profiles of patients with low and high levels of the protein. Fetal hemoglobin or hemoglobin F is considered a major modulator of disease severity in SCA.

This type of hemoglobin normally is found in fetuses and newborn babies, but is typically replaced by another hemoglobin variant after birth. However, hemoglobin F is more effective at transporting oxygen than its adult counterpart, and may, therefore, help to counteract the harmful effects of hemoglobin S on blood flow and oxygen transport.

In some individuals, the levels of hemoglobin F remain relatively high during childhood, and only start to decline later on in life, rather than immediately after birth.

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hygiene, self-care

High levels of Enterobacteriaceae bacteria found

This new study was conducted in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where the disease is highly prevalent. It included 100 patients, ages 5–12, from whom saliva was collected.

Among the patients, 27 had high dental caries — reflected by a high DMTF index of five points or more — and 73 had low dental caries, indicated by a low DMTF index of four points or fewer.

The research team identified 416 bacteria species in the patients’ samples. When analyzing their prevalence, seven were found to be significantly more abundant in patients with a high DMTF index than in those with a low index.

In addition, eight bacteria species were found to be significantly more prevalent in patients with low hemoglobin F levels compared with those with high levels of the protein.

In particular, the Enterobacteriaceae bacteria species, which have been associated with severe infections and high rates of antibiotic resistance, were found in great abundance in both patient groups, being the most significantly abundant bacteria species among those with low levels of hemoglobin F. 

“It has been suggested that the presence of the Enterobacteriaceae species in the oral cavity is favoured when an individual’s immunity is compromised,” the researchers wrote, adding that “patients with SCA are immunocompromised.”

Overall, these findings indicate that Saudi SCA patients with poorer dental health and low levels of hemoglobin F have a higher predominance of harmful bacteria in their mouth.

Our data further emphasise the importance of routine oral hygiene visits for patients with SCA.

“Our results provide a valuable addition to the global microbiome reference data set in an underexamined community,” the researchers wrote, adding, “These efforts are essential and warranted given the scarcity of [bacteria composition] data in Middle Eastern populations.”

Nevertheless, a study with a large sample size evaluating how oral bacterial species can relate to dental caries in SCA patients is required, the team noted.

The researchers said their findings indicate the important of good dental health in people with sickle cell anemia, given that the bacteria species otherwise found “are thought to drive the development and progression of dental caries.”

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Good Oral Health Crucial in People with Sickle Cell Anemia, Study Finds – Oral Health

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A new study from Saudi Arabia found that good dental health is vital for people with sickle cell anemia (SCA). The findings observed that multiple disease-causing bacteria were seen much more in the patients with poorer oral health than those with better oral health.

Patricia Valerio, PhD, noted, “The findings also indicated that patients with low levels of hemoglobin F – a type of hemoglobin normally produced during fetal development – had a significantly higher prevalence of harmful bacteria species than those who had higher levels of the protein.”

This research shows how important good oral hygiene is for patients with SCA and low hemoglobin F.

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Read more about this study from Sickle Cell Disease News.


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Respiratory viruses on decline: Province – Brandon Sun – The Brandon Sun

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Hospitalizations due to influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have all decreased in Manitoba, according to the province’s latest epidemiological respiratory virus surveillance report.

Data for the week of Jan. 15 to Jan. 21 indicates this respiratory virus season may finally be nearing its end, after it began earlier than usual and caused surges of severe illness and hospitalizations, particularly among babies and toddlers.

There were two flu-related hospital admissions that week, none requiring intensive care, while the Influenza A test positivity rate fell to 0.8 per cent, compared with 1.9 per cent the previous week. No cases of Influenza B have been detected provincially yet this season.

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There were 105 detected cases of RSV, with a weekly RSV test positivity rate of 8.3 per cent. The previous week, the test positivity rate for RSV was 8.7 per cent.

There were seven patients with COVID-19 in hospital, as well as three in intensive care. No new COVID deaths were reported, but the province retroactively updated its COVID-19 death toll. There were 15 deaths added to the total count last week, for an overall number of 316 Manitobans who lost their lives to COVID since this fall.

» Winnipeg Free Press

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