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Polio may resurge globally, WHO says, as countries pledge funds

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Various governments pledged $2.6 billion US on Tuesday toward a global plan to again try to eradicate polio, following its comeback, the World Health Organization says.

New cases of the disease in previously polio-free countries are a “stark reminder” that if polio is not ended “everywhere, it may resurge globally,” WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a statement as the UN body wrapped up its World Health Summit in Berlin.

The money — from countries including the U.S., Australia, France, Germany and Japan — will go through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and will also be used to stop outbreaks of new variants of the virus.

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Wild polio virus is found in just two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan. After just six cases were recorded last year, 29 have been recorded so far in 2022, including a small number of new detections in southeast Africa linked to a strain originating in Pakistan.

This year, health officials found polio spread among the non- and under-vaccinated in the U.S., Israel and the U.K. In New York state this summer, a young man experienced paralysis after a polio infection, the first case in the U.S. in nearly a decade.

Public health physicians say that as long as the virus still exists somewhere in the world, it can spread.

Polio is a highly infectious disease spread mainly through contamination by fecal matter. It used to kill and paralyze thousands of children each year around the world. An epidemic in Canada in 1953 hit nearly 9,000 people and killed 500. At the time, it was the most severe epidemic in the country since the 1918 flu pandemic.

There is no known cure, but a full course of vaccines provides nearly 100 per cent immunity, doctors say.

However, vaccination rates for polio and measles declined in Canada among babies born during the COVID-19 pandemic due to missed routine immunizations when family physician offices closed down, doctors say.

Non-governmental organizations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, Latter-day Saint Charities and Rotary International, also made pledges toward eradicating polio at the summit.

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Children’s hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries

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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.

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Older adults amongst the most susceptible to RSV

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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.”

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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.

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Breanna Isbell is a reporter for KGUN 9. She joined the KGUN 9 team in July of 2022 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in sports journalism from Arizona State University in May. Share your story ideas with Breanna by emailing breanna.isbell@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, or Twitter.

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AIDS day walk in North Battleford aims to `banish that stigma’

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 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.”

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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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