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No country met WHO air quality standards in 2021 – data

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Not a single country managed to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality standard in 2021, a survey of pollution data in 6,475 cities showed on Tuesday, and smog even rebounded in some regions after a COVID-related dip.

The WHO recommends that average annual readings of small and hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 should be no more than 5 micrograms per cubic metre after changing its guidelines last year, saying that even low concentrations caused significant health risks.

But only 3.4% of the surveyed cities met the standard in 2021, according to data complied by IQAir, a Swiss pollution technology company that monitors air quality. As many as 93 cities saw PM2.5 levels at 10 times the recommended level.

“There are a lot of countries that are making big strides in reduction,” said Christi Schroeder, air quality science manager with IQAir. “China started with some very big numbers and they are continuing to decrease over time. But there are also places in the world where it is getting significantly worse.”

India’s overall pollution levels worsened in 2021 and New Delhi remained the world’s most polluted capital, the data showed. Bangladesh was the most polluted country, also unchanged from the previous year, while Chad ranked second after the African country’s data was included for the first time.

China, which has been waging war on pollution since 2014, fell to 22nd in the PM2.5 rankings in 2021, down from 14th place a year earlier, with average readings improving slightly over the year to 32.6 micrograms, IQAir said.

Hotan in the northwestern region of Xinjiang was China’s worst performing city, with average PM2.5 readings of more than 100 micrograms, largely caused by sandstorms.

It fell to third on the list of the world’s most polluted cities after being overtaken by Bhiwadi and Ghaziabad, both in India.

 

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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First patient in Quebec gets approval from Health Canada for magic mushroom therapy

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MONTREAL — When Thomas Hartle indulges in a session of psilocybin treatment, the end-of-life anxiety, distractions and noises associated with his terminal colon cancer go away.

“Before the treatment, it’s like you’re sitting in your car. It’s summer. You have your windows down; you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic; it’s noisy …. It’s unpleasant,” said Hartle, who lives in Saskatchewan.

“Your favourite song is on the radio, but you can’t actually appreciate any of it because all of the other distractions are preventing you from even noticing that the radio is on. After a psilocybin treatment,(it’s like) you’re still in your car, in traffic, but you have the windows up; the air conditioning is on and it’s quiet. It’s just you and the music.”

Hartle, 54, is one of the very few Canadians to have received legal psychedelics psychotherapy for a mental health condition since Health Canada made it easier in January for health-care workers to access psilocybin — the hallucinogenic compound found in some mushrooms.

In Montreal, meanwhile, a pioneering clinic in the emerging field of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is about to become the first health-care facility in Quebec to legally treat depression with psilocybin.

“It’s a privilege to be able to accompany people in the exploration of their psychological distress and to offer something different than conventional treatment such as antidepressants,” Dr. Andrew Bui-Nguyen, of the Mindspace by Numinus clinic, said in a recent interview.

Bui-Nguyen said his clinic received Health Canada’s approval onMay 5 to care for a patient who had undergone several unsuccessful treatments for depression.

“There’s a rigorous screening procedure,” Bui-Nguyen said, adding that Quebec’s health insurance plan doesn’t cover the treatment. “We look at the diagnosis, the medical history, if there’s a risk of addiction, what treatments have already been tried …. There must have been a lot of treatments done beforehand so the application is solid.”

Health Canada on Jan. 5 restored its “Special Access Program” — abolished under former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013 — allowing health-care experts to request access to restricted drugs that have not yet been authorized for sale in the country.

Before January, people could only access psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy through clinical trials or medical exemptions. Now, licensed experts can file applications on behalf of patients with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, but for whom conventional treatment has failed.

Health Canada says it has received 15 requests for the use of psilocybin or MDMA — a psychedelic drug with stimulant properties — since resuming the program.

In April, a clinic called Roots To Thrive, in Nanaimo, B.C., became the first health centre in Canada to offer a legal psilocybin group therapy program, in which Hartle took part.

“The therapy part has a capital T in this whole process,” Hartle said. “It isn’t just taking psychedelics. It’s just a tool in the process; the therapy is crucial to getting a good outcome.”

Psychedelic-assisted treatment, Bui-Nguyen explained, requires multiple therapy sessions before and after patients experience the drug. Patients will consume psilocybin while they are supervised by two psychotherapists and remain in the clinic-secured environment for up to six hours.

“It’s not miraculous,” Bui-Nguyen said. “You don’t take psilocybin and that’s it, a psychedelic trip and after the depression is cured — no! The patient has a lot of work to do. But it opens perspectives; it creates new paths in the brain that we aren’t used to taking. The patient then explores new roads to get out of depression.”

In the world’s largest study on psychedelics’ affect on the brain, released in March in the journal Science Advances, lead author Danilo Bzdok said psychedelic drugs might just be the next big thing to improve clinical care of major mental health conditions.

“There’s something like a renaissance, a reawakening of psychedelics,” Bzdok, associate professor with McGill University’s biomedical engineering department, said in a recent interview.

He said the evidence-based benefits are very promising. Patients, he said, say they have experienced up to six months of lasting effects after a single psychedelic-aided therapy session. They have also experienced a reduction of symptoms associated with mental health conditions, Bzdok said, adding that there were fewer side-effects compared to antidepressants.

Mindspace by Numinus CEO Payton Nyquvest said psychedelics have the potential to become a widespread treatment. As Health Canada continues to approve more requests, he hopes the recognition will make the treatment much more accessible.

“We haven’t seen significant innovation in mental health care in probably over 40 years,” Nyquvest said in a recent interview.

“We’re at a time where new and better treatments for mental health are needed now more than ever. No matter what you look at, depression, anxiety, and suicidality … these are all rates that continue to go up with no clear line in terms of how we’re going to address these massive societal issues. Psychedelics represent an opportunity to make a significant impact.”

Hartle’s own experience echoed those hopes. “The improvement in my mental health is so night and day that it would be difficult to say all of the things that it does for me,” he said.

“I still have cancer. I still have difficulty with what it physically does, but there are days when I don’t even think about it. What would you do to have a day where you just feel normal?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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MARS Wildlife Centre closes due to avian influenza – Squamish Chief

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The MARS Wildlife Centre north of Courtenay is closing to the public temporarily after avian influenza was found this week in a small poultry flock in the Comox Valley.

As of Monday, the visitor centre and gift shop will not be accessible to visitors.

“Our commitment to the safety and well-being of our resident ambassador birds (eagles, owls and crows) and wildlife patients is our first priority, and we hope that this additional precautionary measure will help reduce the risk of on-site transmission of the virus,” Gyl Andersen, centre manager of wildlife rehabilitation, said in a statement.

The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society worries that needed donations to operate the centre will drop during the time the centre it is closed, at a time of year when expenses rise.

Andersen is asking supporters to donate to its animal care fund.

It is “baby season” and the influx of injured and orphaned baby birds, raccoon kits, and other small mammals has begun, Andersen said.

The largest expenses at this time of year are food and nursery supplies. Also needed are personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to combat viruses.

The Canadian Food Inspection agency confirmed Wednesday that Vancouver Island’s first case of the H5N1 virus was found in the small flock.

This is the first reported case on the Island, which may have been caused by infected migrating wild birds.

Increased bio-security measures have been put into place to protect birds at the centre, where its wildlife hospital remains open, Andersen said.

Sanitizing footbaths, a separate patient admission building, quarantine zones for different species, and covering the ambassador enclosures are among safety measures implemented.

Anyone bringing an injured animal to the Merville centre must remain in their vehicle and call the hospital at 250-337-2021, extension zero to speak to rehabilitation staff, who will come and collect the animal.

The centre said dead birds can not be brought to the centre. Call the centre for advice. The bird hotline can be called at 1-866-431-2473.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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Rise of acute hepatitis among kids: Find out what is causing it, symptoms to note and all about the role of vaccines – Times of India

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Besides the adenovirus 41, scientists continue to investigate COVID-19 as a potential underlying cause of the rise in recent cases of acute hepatitis in children.

An Indian study conducted by a team of researchers from the Bundelkhand Medical College (BMC), Sagar, Madhya Pradesh and the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Research, Chandigarh found that of 475 children, who tested positive for COVID-19 from April-July in 2021, 37 were diagnosed with COVID Acquired Hepatitis (CAH).

“We observed a peculiar rise in hepatitis cases. Usually, the beginning of monsoon marks a rise in hepatitis cases. Last year (2021) we started to see this in April, or summer, in covid positive children who were part of follow-up. Most of them in fact had recovered from their covid,” said Sumit Rawat, Associate Professor, Microbiology, BMC, and one of the authors of the study.

“Hepatitis A and E are specific to certain villages or regions, B is present through the year and D is usually from a parent or from a blood transfusion. Last year, following the Delta wave we saw these cases from all over the state, defying the usual histories,” he added.

Another recent case study suggested a possible link between liver disease and COVID-19.

The study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition observed a previously healthy three-year-old girl who developed acute liver failure a few weeks after recovering from a mild COVID infection.

Dr. Anna Peters, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the lead author of the study said, “”The patient had liver biopsy findings and blood testing consistent with a type of autoimmune hepatitis which may have been triggered by COVID infection.”

“I think it’s important for physicians to be aware that this is a rare condition that may happen during or after COVID infection. It’s important to check liver tests in patients who aren’t improving as expected,” she added.

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