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Norovirus: What to know about the ‘extremely common’ bug as cases rise in Canada



The very contagious norovirus that is known for causing inflammation of the stomach and intestines is rising across the country — but it is not uncommon during this time of the year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

The number of cases of norovirus has been on the rise “both at the national level and within several provinces,” since January, PHAC confirmed to Global News in an email Wednesday. Infections have increased in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick as well as Newfoundland and Labrador, the agency said.

The agency noted that the number of cases reported to the National Enteric Surveillance Program (NESP) since Jan. 1 “is generally comparable with the number of cases reported in the same seasonal period of previous years (i.e., 2015 – 2019).” The agency uses different surveillance systems to monitor outbreaks of norovirus, including the NESP which oversees data for 14 different pathogens that cause foodborne illness.


While there is no prescription medication to treat norovirus, according to Health Canada’s website, “most people begin to feel better on their own” within two to three days of infection.

There are no “long-term health effects. People can also get norovirus more than once,” the website states.

According to Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital, many people experience “pretty significant nausea and vomiting” post-infection, “but then people tend to recover over the next couple of days.”

Some symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea, stomach pain, and cramps. Some may also experience chills, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and even low-grade fever, Health Canada states on its website.

“It’s important to remember that norovirus, sadly, is extremely common,” Bogoch told Global News. “The real treatment for this is rest and keeping up with fluids and electrolytes.”


How does norovirus spread?

Norovirus spreads through sharing food or utensils with an infected person, according to Health Canada’s website. It can also spread if one touches their mouth without washing hands after touching a contaminated surface.

Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated liquids is also responsible for the spread norovirus between people, the website states.

According to PHAC, about four million people in Canada get sick every year from the food they consume. “Norovirus causes more than 1 million cases of non-travel related foodborne illness each year,” the agency said.

However, most people make “a full recovery,” from norovirus, said Bogoch.

“We just have to watch for more vulnerable individuals, especially the youngest and the oldest who might not be able to keep up with their fluids and electrolytes,” the doctor said.

Cases of norovirus have been on the rise in the United States as well. According the to the U.S. Centre for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from August 2022 to early January, 225 norovirus outbreaks were reported by states taking part in a federal surveillance program.

Norovirus can easily contaminate food and water because it only takes a very small amount of virus particles to make a person sick, the U.S. CDC says on their website.

“Food and water can get contaminated with norovirus in many ways,” the agency states. Moreover, food that “is grown or harvested with contaminated water, such as oysters harvested from contaminated water, or fruit and vegetables irrigated with contaminated water in the field,” can lead to the spread of norovirus.


How to prevent the virus from spreading

Bogoch said PHAC’s “surveillance for this is as good as it can be,” so the key things for Canadians to follow in order to curb spread are hand sanitization and staying home when they feel sick.

“Soap and water (are) the most appropriate way to wash your hands. Norovirus is pretty hardy. It can stick to surfaces and survive on surfaces rather easily,” cautioned Bogoch.

The norovirus is quite resistant to heat and cold, said Bogoch and it can also withstand alcohol. So, “the alcohol hand sanitizers don’t do as good a job as soap and water.”

Noroviruses can infect people of all ages, according to Bogoch and most outbreaks occur in clusters and in places where people come in close contact like schools, cruise ships or hospitals.

But there are ways to protect oneself and other people.

Health Canada says additional precautions like cooking shellfish thoroughly before eating, especially oysters and clams, as well as raw fruits and vegetables, help curb the virus from spreading. Other recommendations from the agency include cleaning and disinfecting surfaces “after an episode of illness” and immediately washing clothing and linens “that are soiled with vomit or diarrhea.”


Why is the norovirus spreading now?

According to PHAC, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic period in 2020, people were wearing masks, hand sanitizing more frequently and practicing physical distancing with others, which “significantly reduced” the spread of pathogens like the norovirus.

“Comparison of norovirus cases reported to date in 2023 against those reported during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic period (i.e., 2020 – 2022) should be carried out with caution,” said PHAC, “as several factors associated with the pandemic resulted in significantly reduced reporting of enteric pathogens, including norovirus.”

Bogoch also pointed out that a lot of times cases of norovirus go unreported as many don’t seek care for it.

“A lot of the time people that get this don’t need to seek care. They have a terrible bout of vomiting or sometimes diarrhea, and it gets better in a day or two,” said Bogoch.


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Restrict junk food marketing to kids at grocery stores, restaurants: report – Global News



A new report that looks at the prevalence of marketing to children inside grocery stores and restaurants suggests regulation is needed to help reduce unhealthy food temptations.

The report funded by Heart and Stroke audited displays at more than 2,000 restaurants and 800 stores across Canada and says children may be bombarded with messages that make junk food seem appealing.

Researchers found nearly 53 per cent of stores had “junk food power walls” at checkout aisles, which it says are prime areas to market to kids because products are placed within their reach.

Read more:

U.S. experts recommend weight-loss drugs for some obese children. What about Canada?

The research says that placement encourages “pester power” — when children nag or pester their parents to make impulse purchases.

University of Waterloo associate professor Leia Minaker says designs and themes such as “magic, adventure and zoo animals” are also commonly seen in beverage and ice cream fridges.

The report says healthy checkout aisle policies and prohibiting toy giveaways with children’s meals could help reduce consumption of unhealthy food.

Click to play video: 'More students turning to food banks as inflation shrinks already tight budgets'

More students turning to food banks as inflation shrinks already tight budgets

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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Health unit suspends 1,900 students for incomplete immunization records – Windsor Star



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More than 1,900 elementary school students in Windsor and Essex County have been suspended for out-of-date immunization records, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said Monday.

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Parents must provide the health unit with an up-to-date immunization record for the suspension to be lifted and the student to return to school. Immunization clinics are available at both health unit locations in Windsor and Leamington on Monday and throughout this week, while immunization records are accepted in-person between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday at both locations.


Students who were suspended but attend and receive vaccinations at the health unit clinics, or who update their records with the health unit, will receive a notice and can return to school the same day.

Proof of immunization can also be submitted online at Primary care providers can also send immunization records to the health unit at 519-258-7288.

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The Immunization of School Pupils Act requires local health units to maintain and review vaccination records for all students and to enforce school suspensions if records are incomplete. These routine immunizations are often administered by primary care providers, but records must still be updated and on file with the health unit.

The review of student immunization records began in December 2022, when more than 12,000 students received notice their records were not up to date.

Earlier this month the health unit warned 3,200 students faced suspension for incomplete records; ultimately 1,908 were suspended on Monday, according to health officials.

Visit for information and clinic times.

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COVID-19 hair loss: Experts weigh in on PRP therapy – CTV News



The list of ways a COVID-19 infection disrupts the body’s natural functions is long and diverse, and, as Viktorya Skrypnyk’s clients have come to learn, includes hair loss.

Skrypnyk is a registered nurse who owns and operates VBeauty Spa, a medical aesthetic clinic in Toronto. The last two years have sent a parade of people through the doors of her clinic struggling with hair loss they say began after a COVID-19 infection.

“Lately, I do see that there’s people that are coming in that have no history of hair loss in the family, no history of alopecia that are developing these symptoms of alopecia within last few years,” she told on Friday. “Most of them are saying that they generally noticed an increase in the year loss specifically after acquiring COVID.”


Multiple published studies have shown COVID infections can trigger a type of hair shedding called telogen effluvium (TE). With TE, thinning typically occurs around the top of the head.

When clients suffering from TE come to Skrypnyk, it’s usually for a treatment she offers known as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. Before the pandemic, Skrypnyk estimates 70 per cent of her PRP therapy clients were men. Now?

“Lately I’ve noticed, after COVID especially, it’s been more popular among women,” she said.


Platelet-rich plasma therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that uses a patient’s own blood cells – specifically platelets – to accelerate healing in a specific area of the body.

Plasma is the liquid portion of blood; the medium that carries red and white blood cells and platelets through the body. It’s made mostly of water and proteins. Platelets are blood cells that aid in blood clotting and contain a naturally-occurring substance called growth factor, which stimulates cell growth and wound healing.

In PRP therapy, a patient’s blood is collected and spun in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelet component of the blood. The patient’s own platelet-rich plasma is then injected into an area of the body that needs help with growth or healing, like an injured muscle or, in some cases, a scalp losing hair.

“We usually withdraw the platelets and re-inject them back into the hairline, specifically where there’s a lot of hair loss,” Skrypnyk said.

PRP meets the definition of a drug under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act, but isn’t covered by provincial health insurance plans. At VBeauty Spa, a treatment typically costs $600, though other clinics may charge more or less.

According to an entry by doctors Neera Nathan and Maryanne Makredes Senna in the Harvard Health Blog, most of the research on PRP for hair loss has looked at its use to treat androgenetic alopecia, also known as hormone-related baldness. Androgenetic alopecia affects both men and women, resulting in balding at the crown and front of the head in men, and balding that begins with a widening of the part in women.

“There is not enough evidence to make conclusions about the effectiveness of PRP for other types of hair loss, like telogen effluvium, alopecia areata or forms of scarring hair loss,” Nathan and Senna wrote.


A person can elect to receive PRP therapy for any type of hair loss, but Dr. Jeff Donovan cautions it should only be considered as a second- or third-line treatment for most patients and most types of hair loss.

“PRP is very popular, but the overwhelming message that I would have is that there is no hair loss condition for which PRP is the first-line option,” Donovan told in a phone interview on Friday.

Donovan is a dermatologist and member of the Canadian Dermatology Association who specializes in hair loss. Like Skrypnyk, he sometimes treats patients using PRP therapy. However, he rarely uses it to treat the type of hair loss most commonly linked to COVID-19 infections – telogen effluvium – and he never prescribes it as a first-line treatment.

For one thing, he explained, TE normally resolves on its own after four to eight months, as long as the condition that triggered it has resolved. It often doesn’t respond to the typical hair loss treatments.

“Telogen effluvium is a hair loss condition that happens due to a trigger,” Donovan told on Friday. “The treatment for telogen effluvium involves treating the trigger, not a bandaid with some other treatment plan.”

If a patient’s TE was triggered by low iron, treatment would involve restoring their iron levels, he said. Likewise, TE triggered by a thyroid condition, or a condition like anorexia nervosa, should resolve after the underlying condition has been treated.

In rare cases, Donovan will recommend PRP therapy for a patient suffering from TE for which an underlying cause can’t be pinpointed. More often, he’ll recommend it for patients suffering from other types of hair loss, but even then, only after exhausting other treatment options.

“When we speak about treatment for hair loss, we must speak about what is the first line treatment, what is the second line treatment and what is the third line treatment,” he said. “These are treatment ladders according to evidence-based medicine.”

For a client with alopecia areata, a type of hair loss that results in circular bald patches, Donovan said the first-line treatments are topical steroid injections and topical minoxidil, which is the active ingredient in Rogaine. For genetic hair loss or androgenetic hair loss, Donovan would first recommend oral and topical minoxidil as well as topical and oral anti-androgens.

Among clients who do end up using PRP therapy, Donovan said between 20 and 40 per cent will see mild benefits, such as a slower rate of hair loss or some modest growth. In order for PRP therapy to provide long-term benefits, however, Donovan said clients typically need to return for treatments three times per year, indefinitely.

Like Skrypnyk, Donovan has noticed more people seeking out PRP therapy for TE in the past year or two. However, he cautions against shelling out for the treatment before speaking to a doctor.

“Due to the popular nature of PRP and the marketing that goes into PRP, there has been an increase in the number of patients demanding that therapy,” he said. “However, that is not necessarily reflective of the benefit of the treatment. Nor is it reflective of how these conditions should be managed based on current scientific evidence.”

Instead, Dovovan said anyone who has hair loss concerns should start by seeking a diagnosis from their usual health-care provider, who can screen for underlying triggers and suggest treatments.

“In my practice, I really prefer when patients come after having tried several therapies,” he said, “because then I get a sense of how well the hair is responding to certain types of treatments.” 

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