Canada is already taking the right steps to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, so there is no need to change things now that the World Health Organization has declared a global emergency over the outbreak, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Thursday.
“The World Health Organization’s global emergency status is really … about helping countries that do not have the same level of sophistication as Canada, or perhaps the United States, to protect their citizens if in fact they have a citizen who returns from China who is ill, or has been close to someone who has returned from China who is ill,” Hajdu said in Ottawa.
“You know this has been working very well in Canada, because we have actually been able to detect cases very quickly, support those people to get better and prevent the spread of disease.”
The UN health agency defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a co-ordinated response.
Though many people experience only mild symptoms from the virus, China has reported more than 9,600 cases, including 213 deaths.
Hajdu stressed the need and the responsibility to remain calm.
“I think that anything that we are doing as politicians or leaders or members of the media that will create a sense of anxiety or panic is actually a dangerous road to travel down,” she said.
Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, reiterated Thursday that the chances of an outbreak in Canada remain low.
“Most cases and the spread of the novel coronavirus are occurring in affected areas in China with only three cases detected in Canada,” Tam said.
“As well, all travel from China is now significantly diminished as a result of exit border measures by the Chinese government in the effort to contain the outbreak.”
Two confirmed cases are in Ontario and one is in British Columbia, which are all linked to recent travel in China. Tam said 101 people in Canada have been tested for the virus, with 58 testing negative for the respiratory illness.
Tam also expressed concern about discrimination against Chinese-Canadians because of the virus.
“It is understandable that our fears increase during times of uncertainty, but when this fear leads some people to spread stigmatizing stereotypes and misinformation, it only does harm,” she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also warned against stigmatizing the Chinese-Canadian community.
“We’ve seen too many instances of unreasonable fears being spread either on the internet or in other ways,” Trudeau said in Brampton, Ont. “We need to know this is a time for Canadians — all Canadians, including Canadians of Chinese origin — to pull together and to lean on each other.”
Meanwhile, Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada is working closely with Global Affairs, which is preparing to fly Canadians out of the Hubei province at the centre of the outbreak in China.
Tam would not comment on whether those people would be quarantined once they arrive in Canada, saying more information would be provided when it’s available.
Earlier Thursday, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said the relatively low number of cases in the province is “reassuring.”
Dr. David Williams said there are no new presumptive or confirmed cases in Ontario, adding that he would be much more concerned at this point if the province had already seen about seven to 10 cases.
“This is reassuring in a way, but not that we’re going to sit back and coast,” he said. “The system is working. We’re investigating. Individuals of concern have self-reported, are coming forward and we haven’t seen ones that out of the blue show up already quite ill and infected. We’re not seeing that yet, but it’s still early days.”
He said there are 27 cases under investigation in the province, and 38 people have already been tested and cleared.
Williams said the coronavirus does not seem to be much different from regular influenza in terms of transmissibility, and evidence suggests it is not transmissible when a person is not feeling symptoms.
In Quebec, there have been no confirmed cases of the virus, and the chances of its being transmitted to the community are considered low, the province’s director of public health said.
Dr. Horacio Arruda warned the public against wearing masks, which he said “do not constitute, by science, a useful tool for the general population in Quebec, even in the context of a coronavirus outbreak.”
Instead, he suggested people practice “respiratory hygiene” by washing their hands and covering their mouths when sneezing or coughing.
If people have respiratory symptoms and have to go out in public, wearing a mask can help prevent transmission, Yaffe said, but it is not useful for the general population.
“Anybody who’s feeling well, wearing a mask is not going to do anything,” she said. “In fact, it might give them a false sense of security.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2020.
—With files from The Associated Press.
Daniela Germano and Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
Children’s hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries
A children’s hospital in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries and appointments starting Monday.
Health officials say it’s due to a high level of respiratory illness.
It is unclear how many surgeries and appointments at Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John‘s will be affected.
Residents who are not experiencing a medical emergency are being asked to avoid visiting an emergency department.
Older adults amongst the most susceptible to RSV
TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The risk of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV, typically flies under the radar when it comes to older adults.
With 10 times the amount of older adults being hospitalized for RSV than in previous years, understanding the risk is important for those who are more susceptible.
“RSV in older adults starts out with the same symptoms as younger adults. With common cold-like symptoms- nasal congestion, sniffles, low-grade temperature, sore throat, dry cough, tiredness. These symptoms will last for a few days,” Mary Derby, Nurse Manager at Pima County Health Department explained.
“However, an older adult or an adult with chronic medical conditions such as heart and lung disease- they can experience more serious symptoms, such as getting a high fever, dehydration, and real difficulty breathing.”
Derby says if these symptoms lead to extreme chest pain, loss of color in the face, or struggle to breathe- seek medical attention immediately.
It is also important for those assisting an older adult to be aware of the risk imposed on those more susceptible.
“If you’re caring for older adults, please wash your hands frequently. Watch for your own symptoms and stay away if you’re experiencing symptoms. Consider wearing a mask to protect that older adult, because these older adults do need that protection… Take it seriously,” Derby emphasized.
Upward 6,000 to 10,000 older adults die each year from RSV.
As we make our way through the holidays, be sure to stay up to date with COVID-19 and Influenza vaccines, stay home if you are not feeling well, wash your hands often and for those at higher risk, wear a fitted mask around others.
AIDS day walk in North Battleford aims to `banish that stigma’
By Julia Peterson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On World AIDS Day, advocates in the Battlefords gathered to raise awareness about how the virus affects people in their community, and how people can get help and treatment, if they need it.
“HIV is completely preventable in today’s society, with all the advances in medication,” said Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre’s HIV project coordinator, Cymric Leask. “But due to a lot of intersecting factors, especially due to COVID in the past couple of years, our HIV numbers have skyrocketed.”
In 2021, more than 200 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the province, even while testing, treatment and outreach were reduced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saskatchewan has the highest rate of new HIV infections in Canada, and has had the highest annual rate in the country for more than a decade.
The proportion of new HIV cases in rural areas is rising, too.
“Here up north, there are such large barriers to access to care,” said Leask. “We do have some great resources here in North Battleford but it’s still very hard to access the proper care for HIV.”
For example, getting started on HIV medication requires a visit with a communicable disease doctor, but there is no communicable disease doctor based in the Battlefords. Instead, that doctor visits the community only once every four months.
Another barrier Leask has found is that many people still have an outdated understanding of what HIV is, who is at risk and how treatment works.
“Especially here in rural areas, it’s stigmatized as something that only affects gay or bisexual men, men who have sex with men,” Leask said.
Today in Saskatchewan, men and women are diagnosed with HIV at almost equal rates, and two thirds of new cases are passed through injection drug use.
Treatments are much easier to manage than they used to be; some only involve taking one pill a day.
But the enduring stigma around HIV makes it harder for people to find community and support.
“People don’t talk about it,” said Jackie Kennedy, executive director of the Battlefords Indian and Metis Friendship Centre. “I think they’re afraid to. A lot of people don’t disclose that information (about their HIV status) because they are afraid to be judged.”
As more people continue to be diagnosed with HIV in Saskatchewan every year, groups and organizations in the Battlefords are working hard to make it easier for people to get testing, treatment, information and harm reduction supplies.
“We want to banish that stigma of how it used to be,” said Leask. “It’s not like that anymore.”
Julia Peterson is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE STARPHOENIX
The LJI program is federally funded.
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