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Ontario coronavirus patient showed mild symptoms on flight

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OTTAWA —
The first Canadian patient diagnosed with a novel form of coronavirus began showing signs of illness on the plane that brought him back from the disease’s epicentre., Canada’s Chief Public Health officer said Sunday as she stressed the risk of future infection is low.

Dr. Theresa Tam said the man in his 50’s, currently in stable condition in a Toronto hospital, showed mild symptoms on the flight that brought him back to the country from China earlier this week.

Tam said authorities are now working to help track some of his fellow passengers, but said the case demonstrates that the country’s public health protocols are working.

“The patient has been managed with all appropriate infection and prevention control protocols, so the risk of onward spread in Canada is low,” Tam said at a morning news conference. “Nevertheless it would not be unexpected that there will be more cases imported into Canada in the near-term given global travel patterns.”

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Tam said the Ontario patient did not report his flu-like symptoms upon first landing in Toronto, but did share his recent stay in Wuhan with first responders when he sought medical help the next day. The man remains in hospital, where Ontario health authorities said he’s being held in a negative-pressure room used to contain airborne illnesses.

Despite her concession that future Canadian cases are expected, Tam said close, prolonged human-to-human contact is usually necessary for the disease to spread.

The news of Canada’s first coronavirus patient comes as authorities around the world grapple with the new type of virus, which originated in China but has since spread to Europe and North America.

There are more than 1,975 cases so far, including three in France and two in the United States.

While 56 people have died of the virus in China — most of the deaths have been older patients — the World Health Organization has not declared the outbreak an international public health emergency.

   This report by the Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2020.

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At least five B.C. children died from influenza last month, as mortalities spike

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At least five children died last month in British Columbia from influenza as a rise of early season respiratory illnesses added strain to the beleaguered healthcare system.

The figure marks a departure from the average of two to three annual flu deaths among children in the province between 2015 and 2019, data from the BC Coroners Service shows.

“Public health is monitoring the situation closely and is reminding people of the steps they can take to protect themselves, their children and their loved ones against the flu,” the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said in a statement.

“It is important to know that death associated with influenza in previously healthy children continues to be rare.”

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The centre said it is aware of a sixth reported flu death among children and youth under 19, but it was not immediately clear why the sixth wasn’t included in the coroners’ figures.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the children who died included one who was younger than five years old, three who were between five and nine, and two adolescents who were between 15 and 19.

“Early findings indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness, which can be a complication of influenza,” Henry said in a statement Thursday.

The deaths in British Columbia suggest figures could tick up across the country given the common challenges facing health systems this respiratory season. Alberta has also recorded the deaths of two children with influenza so far this season.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of five to six kids died per flu season across Canada, data collected from 12 hospitals across the country shows.

The national data was collected between 2010 and 2019 by IMPACT, a national surveillance network administered by the Canadian Paediatric Association. It was included in a research paper published in March in “The Lancet Regional Health — Americas” journal that also found no deaths from the flu among children in either 2020 or 2021.

No one from either IMPACT or the B.C. Centre for Disease Control was immediately available for an interview.

On Monday, Henry said that after two years of low flu rates, mostly due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the province is seeing a “dramatic increase” in illness and it arrived sooner than normal.

She urged parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu.

On Thursday, British Columbia’s Health Ministry announced a “blitz” of walk-in flu clinics that will open across the province Friday through Sunday. Flu vaccines are free to all kids aged six months and older in B.C.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said getting the shot is particularly important for those at risk of severe outcomes, including those with chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, kidney or liver disorders and diseases, those with conditions that cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, those who need to take Aspirin for long periods of time and those who are very obese.

The BC Coroners Service said its data is preliminary and subject to change while investigations are completed.

The cases include those where influenza was identified as an immediate, pre-existing or underlying cause of death, or as a significant condition.

Henry said updates on pediatric influenza-related deaths will be posted weekly as part of the respiratory surveillance summaries on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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Six children in B.C. have died this season from flu-related illness: B.C. CDC – Vancouver Sun

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The number is high for a province where typically fewer than three children a year die from influenza.

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At least six children have died in B.C. this season from flu-related illness, with southern B.C. one of the hardest-hit regions in Canada in the national flu epidemic.

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The number of fatalities of children aged under 19 is high in a province where two children die from influenza in a normal year.

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Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, said it is a historic year for influenza in British Columbia.

“This is epic. … It’s a big, big deal,” said Conway. He said B.C. has already reached the number of flu cases it normally reports for an entire year, 4,000, in the early part of the season.

Reported cases do not capture all flu cases as only those that have positive tests, usually in a hospital setting, get reported.

In a normal year, two children might die, and they would usually have other health conditions.

Statistics compiled by Health Canada show that in addition to southern B.C., Alberta has had the most widespread flu activity.

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The flu had waned during the COVID-19 pandemic, but cases shot up as societies removed restrictions. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere had high flu numbers last summer, which is their winter.

Earlier this week, B.C. health officials warned that after two years of COVID-19 restrictions, young children and other vulnerable people are at higher risk of getting very sick from the flu this season.

The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said this year’s strain — influenza A or H3N2 — has been tough on younger kids, sometimes leading to secondary infections that cause serious complications and, in rare cases, “tragic outcomes.”

B.C. health officials had not initially released information about the six deaths, but they have since been confirmed by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and Health Minister Adrian Dix. The B.C. Coroners Service says they are investigating five deaths of children under 19 in November where influenza was suspected.

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Asked by reporters on Wednesday if pressures on the health-care system contributed to the children’s death, Dix said the issue is influenza.

“It’s devastating news for families. It shows the significant dangers the flu can have for many children,” said Dix.

In a statement, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said early findings of the six deaths indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness, a known, but rare complication of influenza.

At least two families of children who died from complications of the flu have spoken publicly, one saying their child developed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and another saying their child developed a bacterial infection after a case of strep turned septic.

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Community fundraisers have been set up for the two families in Richmond and Kelowna — the Cabana and Loseth families — who lost daughters, ages six and nine.

In an email, spokesman Heather Amos of the Centre for Disease Control said: “It is important to know that death associated with influenza in previously healthy children continues to be rare.”

Surveillance information compiled by Health Canada shows the flu season has started earlier than in previous years and has seen a rapid ramp-up. In previous years, cases have eventually plateaued and then dropped off as the weather warmed in the spring.

A University of B.C. epidemiologist, Sarah Otto, said the flu is largely tracked through this surveillance data and then compared to previous years to determine severity.

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Through the COVID-19 pandemic, epidemiologists have used computer modelling to forecast the progress of the coronavirus.

Those same methods are not used to project how influenza will behave in the future, so it’s difficult to predict when it will peak, said Otto, a zoologist who specializes in mathematical modelling.

“Right now, we are seeing it (the flu) skyrocket. But is that going to turn around in the next week? I don’t think we have a very good … prediction tool box,” said Otto.

Both Otto and Conway stressed the best thing that people can do to protect themselves from the flu and minimize getting seriously ill is to vaccinate themselves and their children. The flu shot is free and available at pharmacies, clinics and doctors’ offices.

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In addition, they said people should stay home if they are unwell, wash their hands — “obsessively,” said Conway — and wear masks in indoor settings.

With a file from Katie DeRosa

ghoekstra@postmedia.com

twitter.com/gordon_hoekstra


Vaccine blitz

Health officials are launching a vaccine blitz in a bid to get children and families protected before the holidays.

Several health authorities will be offering walk-in influenza immunizations this weekend.

People who want to get a flu shot can just go to the pop-up clinics, without calling ahead or making an appointment. They also don’t need to register on the province’s Get Vaccinated system, unless they prefer to make an appointment.

For clinic locations, visit your health authority’s website:

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Vancouver Coastal Health
Fraser Health
Island Health
Interior Health
Northern Health 

The clinics can also dispense COVID-19 vaccine shots at the same time. The vaccines are free for everyone six months and older.

ticrawford@postmedia.com

— with files from Joe Ruttle and The Canadian Press


More news, fewer ads: Our in-depth journalism is possible thanks to the support of our subscribers. For just $3.50 per week, you can get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.

  1. Vaccinations are free this respiratory virus season for both influenza and COVID-19.

    Young kids at higher risk from this year’s flu strain, parents urged to get them vaccinated: B.C. health officials

  2. Michelle Bastin and her son Elliott, 3, at B.C. Children's Hospital.

    Inside a packed B.C. Children’s Hospital: How kids, parents and staff are coping amidst virus surge

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Cough and cold medication shortage to end next year, pharmacists association says – The Daily Press

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Children’s Tylenol returning slowly to retail outlets in town

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Parents with sick kids might be able to take a break from crushing adult Tylenol and mixing it with apple sauce if they hurry quickly to a local pharmacy.

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Children’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) in liquid form began arriving at retail outlets in late November, but in such limited quantities that pharmacists are keeping them behind the counter and limiting them to one bottle per customer.

A Shopper’s Drug Mart pharmacist The Daily Press spoke with on Tuesday wouldn’t say how much they’d received but advised to hurry while quantities last. A Rexall pharmacist is only selling children’s Tylenol to parents with sick kids, not to those just preparing for a rainy day.

Adam Chappell, owner and pharmacist at Parma Right in The 101 Mall, told The Daily Press he was expecting nine retail-sized bottles of children’s Tylenol last Wednesday, which he also planned to keep behind the counter and limit to one bottle per customer.

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He predicts that more will become available, but that there will be extended shortages in the short term. Pharmacies are being allocated small amounts by the manufacturers, to spread out supply.

The shortage makes it difficult for parents to control fevers in their children, leading to more doctor visits, he said.

“We had more public health measures in place with COVID, so we had 1½ to two years where we really didn’t see much influenza or common cold,” said Chappell, whose independent pharmacy opened in November.

“So now we’re seeing everything all at once because we’re now socializing more. It’s that time of year, so we’re starting to see more influenza, cough and colds and COVID is still circulating. I think it’s a combination of higher use and some lingering logistical issues.”

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Shelves sit half empty in the adult cough and cold section at the Shopper’s Drug Mart at 227 Algonquin Blvd. E. on Tuesday. The shortage is expected to end between January and March of 2023, said Jen Belcher with the Pharmacists Association of Ontario. The timing would coincide with the end of the cold and flu season.NICOLE STOFFMAN/The Daily Press
Shelves sit half empty in the adult cough and cold section at the Shopper’s Drug Mart at 227 Algonquin Blvd. E. on Tuesday. The shortage is expected to end between January and March of 2023, said Jen Belcher with the Pharmacists Association of Ontario. The timing would coincide with the end of the cold and flu season.NICOLE STOFFMAN/The Daily Press jpg, TD

A children’s drug shortage began in the spring and worsened in the summer when an early onset of flu and respiratory syncytial virus was made worse by COVID-19, which presents as a cold. Parents began stocking up.

When local manufacturers could not keep up with demand, Health Canada arranged to import supply from the United States and Australia, whose first shipment in early November went straight to hospitals, in part because the labels were not bilingual, Postmedia reported.

Health Canada has authorized 500,000 bottles of imported children’s acetaminophen for retail to arrive in December, and domestic supply is starting to recover, Jen Belcher with the Ontario Pharmacists Association told The Daily Press in a telephone interview.

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“The demand really hasn’t abated, and manufacturing really hasn’t been able to keep up from a straight capacity standpoint, rather than a supply interruption with a lack of ingredients,” she said, when asked to respond to a claim by the German pharmacist’s association.

That organization asserts pandemic lockdowns in China are blocking exports of the raw ingredients used for medications, Postmedia reported Nov. 16.

If lockdowns in China continue, however, she conceded it could interrupt the ingredient supply in the long-term.  There is also a global reliance on India for the raw ingredients used in over-the-counter medication.

Canadian manufacturers can tap various international suppliers if approved by Health Canada, Belcher said.

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Children’s Advil (ibuprofen), an anti-inflammatory, continues to be in short supply in pharmacies, but available in hospital. Neither Belcher nor Chappell has heard reports of Health Canada planning to import it for retail outlets.

Adult Tylenol and Advil remain plentiful.

Chappell recommends that parents speak to their pharmacist to determine a dosage of adult pills based on the child’s weight and symptoms. They can be crushed and added to yogurt, apple sauce or chocolate syrup.

If parents can wait a few days for the package to arrive, they can order a supply for their child from a compounding pharmacist, who is qualified to make custom medications including liquid formulations. There are several compounding pharmacists in Sudbury, but none in Timmins.

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Adults in Timmins who have come down with a cold or flu lately may also have been surprised to see empty shelves in the adult cough and cold section of their local pharmacy.

“When it comes to cough and cold medication for both adults and children, we’re not seeing an imported supply of those. Those are short and have been for quite some time due to this high level of demand, small amounts have been trickling through the supply chain but it hasn’t been enough to keep up with demand,” said Belcher.

She expects the adult cough and cold medication shortage to end sometime between January and March, 2023, just in time for the end of flu season.

A quick check of the adult cough and cold section of four downtown pharmacies on Tuesday showed partially empty shelves, but there was still a variety of medication to choose from.

Belcher said pharmacists have lots of experience finding alternatives for patients, if necessary.

“While the over-the-counter medications in short supply are the most visible representation of the challenges to our supply chain, pharmacy teams have been managing very high levels of drug shortages, some critical, where there are really few or no alternative options,” she said, adding that up to 20 per cent of the team’s day is spent managing shortages.

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