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Officials concerned rumours spreading about the Coronavirus

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British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. Dix and Dr. Henry announced Tuesday that British Columbia has confirmed its first case of coronavirus and the person in question is being treated.


JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER — A third case of a new coronavirus that’s behind deaths in China has been confirmed in Canada by health officials in British Columbia, who say a man in his 40s tested presumptively positive after a business trip to the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said the man who lives in the Vancouver area returned last week and had symptoms about 24 hours later, when he voluntarily isolated himself at his home and called a clinic.

The man is doing well at home and no members of his family have shown any symptoms as they are being monitored by health officials, Henry added.

A second test will be done at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and results are expected in the next two days, Henry told a news conference Tuesday.

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“Given the history of travel and the contact that this person had in Wuhan city, and they were showing symptoms, we are confident that this is truly a case of this novel coronavirus,” she said.

The patient spent most of his time in the port city of Guangzhou and visited Wuhan, the city at the centre of an outbreak in that country, where millions of people have been quarantined and the number of cases has increased to at least 4,500 across China.

Chinese authorities report at least 106 people have died there of the novel virus that is believed to have originated at a market in Wuhan, where meat was sold alongside live animals.

The man who returned to Vancouver contacted a primary health-care provider on Sunday to say he had travelled to Wuhan. He had no symptoms on the plane back to Vancouver, said Henry, who expects more people in B.C. to test positive for the virus.

Several people have been assessed in the province and the risk of the virus spreading remains low, she said.

“We need to be very careful about listening to rumours and third- and fourth-hand information,” she said, adding people should rely on credible sources for information.

“It’s very challenging and what’s concerning to me, having been in the city of Toronto during the SARS outbreak and being one of the people responding there, is how easily those rumours can lead to discrimination, inappropriate discrimination against people, and I think we need to take all those rumours with a grain of salt and recognize they are just that — rumours.”

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province will provide ongoing information to the public and all the necessary precautions are being taken, adding social media has allowed rumours to spread quickly, something that didn’t happen during the SARS outbreak in 2003, when 44 Canadians died.

“We are determined to provide the information that the public needs,” he said.

Multiple systems are in place to prepare for, detect and respond to infectious diseases, Dix said.

The BC Centre for Disease Control has developed a diagnostic test for the new coronavirus and is working to ensure potential cases can be detected quickly and accurately.

Several countries have flown their citizens out of China as the novel virus spreads in that country and beyond to countries including Cambodia, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Nepal, Australia, France, Germany, the United States and Canada.

Unlike some other countries including the U.S., Canada has not repatriated any citizens.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is considering ways to bring Canadians back if they wish to return.

“Not all residents or visitors in the area that are Canadians do want to come back. And so we’re working through some of those details about what that might look like,” she said in Ottawa.

Canadians considering a trip to China should adhere to travel advisories, she said.

“There are increased advisories for the area of Hubei, the province of Hubei, to let travellers know that non-essential travel should not be considered at this time,” she said.

“That’s not so much about, by the way, contracting the illness. It’s because of the significant quarantine making it very difficult to move around the region. There is no transportation in and out of 18 cities in China. That number may grow.”

Hajdu echoed Henry’s concerns about misinformation sparking fears and said people should rely on government sources to ensure they are not unnecessary being fearful of a virus that remains at a low risk to spread in Canada.

The federal government will be putting additional public health officials at airports to meet passengers from Chinese flights and ensure they have written information and can speak with someone who can explain the steps they need to take if they end up developing symptoms, she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2020.

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World AIDS Day brings Red Scarf campaign back to Stratford – Stratford Beacon-Herald

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Stratford’s downtown core will be decorated Thursday with handmade red scarves, a symbol of hope and solidarity on World AIDS Day dedicated to the thousands of Canadians living with HIV and the stigma the virus still carries.

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Over a dozen knitters in the Stratford and St. Marys area contributed nearly 100 scarves to this year’s Red Scarf campaign, a signature event organized by Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) – a Southwestern Ontario charity that supports individuals and communities living with, at-risk for, or affected by HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

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Each scarf is a symbol of awareness and compassion that includes on a small tag with more information about HIV and the work RHAC does. 

They’re free to take if you don’t already have one of your own.

“I think it’s important,” said Laurie Krempien-Hall, a local knitter and RHAC volunteer who’s helped organize the annual Red Scarf campaign in Stratford for over a decade. “I hope that (people) look at them, they take one … and wear it with pride.”

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The Red Scarf campaign began in 2012. Since then, volunteers have knit more than 12,000 of them in an effort to raise awareness about the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

“HIV isn’t what it used to be,” said Martin McIntosh, RHAC’s director of community relations education. “Today, people living with HIV today can lead long, healthy lives without passing the virus on to others.”

According to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR), effective HIV treatment can suppress the virus in a person’s system to a point where it cannot be transmitted to sexual partners. HIV can also be prevented by taking a medication.

Despite those advances, however, stigma remains a significant obstacle for people living with and at-risk for HIV. 

“So many people still think it’s something that’s gone away,” Krempien-Hall said. “It’s not gone away.”

“A red scarf is a really easy way to show your support,” McIntosh added. 

A World AIDS Day vigil held in Stratford prior to the pandemic hasn’t yet been revived, McIntosh said, but RHAC’s vigil at London’s First-St. Andrew’s United Church will be steamed live on Zoom for anyone who wishes to take part.

More information about RHAC’s programs and services can be found at redscarf.ca.

cmontanini@postmedia.com 

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Ontario pediatric infectious disease experts urge parents to get kids vaccinated – Cornwall Seaway News

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TORONTO — Children five and under in Ontario should be vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza before the holiday season amid surging hospital admissions, infectious disease experts are warning.

In a joint statement earlier this week, experts from four of the province’s pediatric hospitals said vaccinations are a critical tool to help mitigate the effects of a viral season that could prove longer and more severe than years past.

“In the current context of increased circulation of respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza and RSV, optimizing the uptake of both COVID-19 and influenza vaccines in children are of crucial importance, especially before the winter and holiday season,” said the statement from the Hospital for Sick Children, CHEO, the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre and McMaster Children’s Hospital.

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Data released by Public Health Ontario shows that as of Nov. 6, only seven per cent of Ontario children aged six months to five years had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and as few as two per cent were fully vaccinated.

The experts said that’s particularly concerning because children aged four and under have a higher risk for hospitalization from COVID-19 than any other group of kids and teens.

The province has not yet released data on uptake for the influenza shot this season.

Several Ontario pediatric hospitals have recently announced they would cut back on surgeries and deploy staff to help backstop overburdened intensive care units and emergency rooms.

Hospital admissions are surging under a triple-threat of respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and COVID-19, at a time when the health-care system was already grappling with record numbers of job vacancies.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.

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Starbucks Partners Come Together for World Aids Day

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Join the Starbucks Canada Pride Partner (employee) Network in the fight against HIV and commemorating the lives lost to AIDS-related illnesses on World Aids Day (December 1) and see how we can all take action to uplift our communities.  

The impact of AIDS is felt around the globe in communities and homes near and far. An estimated 38.4 million people worldwide are living with HIV as of the end of 2021 and 650,000 000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in that same year, according to the UNAIDS. Progress is being made, but still four decades into the HIV response, inequalities persist for the most basic services like testing and treatment.

This is why the Starbucks Canada Pride, Black, Pan-Asian and Indigenous Partner Networks are teaming up with I’m Ready to Know, a national program that is implementing, scaling-up and evaluating low-barrier options for access to HIV self-testing and support to everyone in Canada. Starbucks partners (employees) can visit I-AM.health/StarbucksPN to know their status and get access to free and completely anonymous HIV self-testing.

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“It is so special to collectively come together as Partner Networks, a vast and diverse representation of the Starbucks partner population, to raise awareness and action about HIV self-testing that is free and confidential, while also encouraging our partners to take their health into their own hands with such an incredible program like I’m Ready to Know. With World Aids Day around the corner, we wanted to show solidarity and demonstrate how our partners are united with the cause.”

Steven Snyder, co-chair of Canada Pride Partner Network

Partner Network Member Spotlight

At Starbucks, partner networks help create connections over shared experiences and values, encourage professional growth, raise awareness of important issues and serve as a bridge between our stores and the communities we serve. Israel (he/him), a three-year partner and member of the Canada Pride Partner Network shares his journey on educating his self and others about HIV.

“I grew up in a conservative and religious environment, and that had a huge impact on my knowledge of sexual health. I had no exposure to LGBTQ or HIV education and there was no one in my community to guide me through the experience of being a queer youth. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto and started as a Starbucks barista that I met partners (employees) who shared their knowledge and experiences with me. My fellow partners pushed me to accept and grow into my own identity and I started to become more comfortable speaking about and educating myself on the topic of HIV.

However, it was earlier this year that I was faced with it head on when I thought I had been exposed to HIV. It was a scary moment and a feeling I will never forget. With this feeling came a lot of anxiety about testing and finding out my status, but I knew I had to overcome my fear. It was this experience that showed me that there was so much for me to learn and understand and how important it is to share my knowledge with others so the stigma around HIV can be broken.

 In my unique experience as a Queer, Filipino man, I find that HIV-related stigma and discrimination are most prevalent in BIPOC communities as many of us are told HIV is ‘the gay disease’ and experience deep-rooted cultural stigmatism. This not only significantly impacts the health, lives and well-being of people living with or at risk of HIV, especially key populations, but also impedes the HIV response in many ways such as testing, treatment, and prevention services.

Advocating and sharing the word regarding HIV prevention has become very important to me. As a person with a negative status, I have the privilege of educating others around me about HIV and AIDS and helping them be ready to know their own status. I wish I had the opportunity to learn, grow, and make mistakes in a safe environment, but now, I am focused on living my wishes by looking out for how I can support other people.  Being a Starbucks partner and having the support of my fellow partners had such a profound impact on me and helped me immensely in my journey, so I hope to continue that legacy with others.

To me, World Aids Day is about uplifting those that are down and giving a voice to those that need to be heard.  The stigma surrounding HIV continues and that’s getting in the way of people leading healthy lives. This is a day to share how important it is to be informed; ignorance comes at a price, and that price can be people’s lives. This is an opportunity for us all to judge less, learn more, and practice empathy.”

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