Symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 share a number of similarities
People in Montreal are out in droves enjoying the good weather, but Quebec public health officials say they are seeing less and less people respecting the advice necessary to fight COVID-19.
On Friday, Quebec’s Public Health Director Horacio Arruda was trying to hammer down the message that the public must continue to keep distance and wear masks, even though things look normal.
“Yes, we have gradually de-confined, however, the virus is still present,” Arruda said.
“It is truly major. The biggest action you can take to help us is to maintain the two metres, practice hygiene please and wear your face cover.”
The director of public health for the Montérégie region, Dr. Julie Loslier said they have noticed that the number of contacts a person who is infected with the virus had was becoming larger.
“We’re seeing people are respecting the distancing measures less, we’re also seeing that the average age of people (getting infected) is getting lower.”
Loslier added that there have been cases of younger people spreading the virus to “a great number of contacts” because they were in social settings where there was no physical distancing.
“The rise is not abnormal, it’s related to the fact that the virus is still circulating and as the youth have not been too exposed to the virus, there are some cases,” Arruda explained.
Arruda says the potential second wave will be as big or as small as our efforts in maintaining our physical distance and wearing a mask when we can’t keep that distance.
Some, however, say there needs to be a balance.
“When we go to supermarkets, we wear a mask, we follow the guidelines,” said Theo Gaoois, who was having a beer out on a terrasse on Mont-Royal Avenue.
“But I think we need to be able to socialize, be outside, kind of feel like it’s normal.”
The co-owner of the Taverne Saint-Sacrement on Mont-Royal Avenue, Carlos Machado, said that balance was not always easy to achieve.
Some people, he says, act as if the pandemic is over.
“We’re trying to remind them as much as we can because we don’t want to close down again,” said Machado.
Officials also noted a rise in sexually transmitted diseases in the Monteregie area after confinement ended.
Health Matters: Study confirms masks, social distancing measures do help curb the spread of COVID-19
“We have seen a spike in people reporting sexually transmitted diseases,” said Loslier.
“What we need to know is if people were testing themselves less during the pandemic.”
Loslier added it’s possible that people were getting closer after de-confinement and not respecting social distancing rules.
Officials are urging everyone to stay protected.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
COVID-19 task force worries Trump’s rush to approve vaccine will spook Canadians
Members of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force are casting worried eyes at the Trump administration’s political push to get a vaccine approved before the U.S. presidential election in November.
Dr. Joanne Langley, the task force co-chair, and member Alan Bernstein say they are concerned about “vaccine hesitancy” in Canada, the phenomenon where people have doubts about taking a readily available vaccine because of concerns about its safety.
Langley says that when a vaccine against COVID-19 is eventually found, governments and health-care professionals will have to mount a vigorous information campaign to counter opposition.
And it won’t help that President Donald Trump has said a pandemic-ending vaccine could be rolled out as soon as October, stoking concern that he is rushing the timeline to further his re-election chances on Nov. 3.
Countering concerns that an apparent hurry to approve a vaccine could spook people out of getting it is an ongoing concern among the approximately one dozen health experts on the government’s vaccine advisory panel.
It’s tasked with recommending which vaccine candidates the government should be spending money on.
This past week, Trump chided the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for being “confused” when he testified at a Senate committee that a safe and effective vaccine wouldn’t be ready by U.S. election day.
“As a scientist, and as a citizen, that’s concerning to me because the regulator is designed to be independent of any political influence,” Langley said in an interview. She is an expert in pediatric infectious disease at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University.
“All the decisions are made based on the evidence of science, which includes the immune response, how well it protects, all of the adverse events,” she added. “And really, politicians have nothing to do with that.”
Bernstein said if politicians successfully pushed health regulators to approve a vaccine prematurely, that would violate public trust and discourage the widespread vaccine use needed to end the pandemic.
“I think it would be a big mistake. So I don’t see it happening before Nov. 3, no,” Bernstein said in an interview. Bernstein is the head of CIFAR, a Canadian-based global research organization.
“What a disaster it would be if we actually got a great vaccine, but in the U.S., the population didn’t trust it, because they felt that the decision was being compromised.”
In Canada, the federal government has made advance purchase deals with a handful of international biotech companies for tens of millions of vaccine doses if they are found to be safe and effective.
Canadian politicians and public health officials have said that widespread use of a vaccine is key to stamping out the novel coronavirus.
Bernstein said the government’s purchasing decisions have been based on recommendations born out of the painstaking research that his advisory group has undertaken. The task force reports to Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.
“They’ve been very conscientious in terms of listening to us, visiting with us, talking with us. Both ministers,” said Bernstein, who was the first president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He serves on medical advisory boards in the U.S., Britain and Australia, and with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Science is driving the decisions.”
Langley said there is an onus on governments and health professionals to communicate to Canadians the merits of taking a safe vaccine when a viable candidate is found and approved for use.
“We want to make sure that the Canadian public has a chance to learn about the very high standards that will have to be met for these vaccines,” she said, “and that they feel confident that people have chosen these vaccines with a view to their best interest.”
Bernstein said Canadians have a high level of trust in the institutions and political leaders.
“I’m not a Liberal or Conservative. I’m not commenting on Prime Minister Trudeau, but just in general, Canadians are pretty trusting, and that trust has been earned.”
Langley and her co-chair Mark Lievonen spent half a day briefing the Liberal cabinet during its two-day retreat in Ottawa this past week.
“It was all about the health consequences for Canadians of COVID and what we know so far, and what we might further be able to do and what the future is going to look like,” said Langley.
The vaccine task force was formally announced by the government in early August but it has been working since June. Over the summer it met in six-hour Zoom sessions at least twice a week, “interviewing various companies, various scientists, comparing notes with other national task forces to hear what they’re up to,” said Bernstein.
He and Langley are hopeful at least one viable vaccine candidate will emerge before the end of December from the several ongoing human trials.
They both say it could take several months after that before Health Canada gives the necessary final approval.
“We have to educate the public,” said Langley.
“It will be absolutely our responsibility to make sure that the public is informed so that they’re confident and can get those vaccines for themselves and their families knowing that the regular high standards that we have in Canada for vaccines are all met.”
COVID-19 case identified at Winnipeg daycare – CBC.ca
Public health officials are warning that a confirmed case of COVID-19 is connected to the Munroe Early Childhood Education Centre in Winnipeg’s Elmwood neighbourhood.
A person who tested positive for the novel coronavirus was in the Chalmers Avenue daycare on Monday in the morning and afternoon, according to a letter sent to parents from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority on Saturday.
“Be assured that public health investigations begin within 24 hours of a confirmed laboratory test to identify individuals who may have been exposed,” the letter said.
The centre immediately closed off areas that may have been used by the infected person after it was informed of the positive test result. Those areas won’t be used until they have been thoroughly cleaned.
All close contacts in the same room as the person who tested positive are being told to self-isolate for 14 days, but public health officials will contact those people directly.
Officials aren’t providing the name or any identifying information about the person who tested positive.
Parents are asked to monitor their kids for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate them at any sign of illness; those who show symptoms should be tested for the coronavirus.
The centre will remain open to all other children and staff.
Health unit prepares for possible ‘twindemic’
When it comes to a possible “twindemic” – the arrival of flu season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – “all you can do is expect the worst, plan for the worst, and hope for the best.”
Dr. Jim Chirico, medical officer of health with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, says there are “so many unknowns” about what this year’s flu season will look like.
The flu season in the southern hemisphere, which can provide indications of what will happen in the northern hemisphere, was very mild this year, but Canadians can’t take that as a true indicator of what will happen here.
“Was it mild because of the COVID-19 measures that were in place?” Chirico asks. “We don’t know. We don’t know how severe it might be.”
The flu normally starts to be felt in this region in the late fall, running until January. Canada has been weathering the COVID-19 pandemic since March, and there are no signs it will let up anytime soon. In fact, the number of cases across the country have been climbing over the past week.
Having two pandemics at the same time, Chirico says, can put more pressure on the health system as symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 share a number of similarities. That means the number of people seeking testing for COVID-19 could increase as the seasonal flu takes hold.
The flu, he says, affects children more, it appears, than COVID-19 does, but elderly residents are particularly susceptible to both.
Chirico advocates everyone possible get the flu vaccine when it arrives in the region. It helps reduce the possibility of contracting the flu and may reduce the severity of influenza, although it does not offer 100 per cent protection from contracting it.
“It protects not only you but those around you,” Chirico says. If we can reduce the number of flu cases, it will reduce the pressure on the health-care system.”
The health unit, he says, is working with primary health-care providers and pharmacies to make sure as many people who want the flu vaccine can get it. The health unit will be providing vaccination clinics, while the vaccine will also be available at doctors offices and at pharmacies.
Chirico notes that when the H1N1 flu was prevalent some years ago, the health unit was able to conduct “mass immunization clinics.
“So we have that experience” to fall back on and to prepare for the eventuality that it might be necessary again, he says.
“We do have plans in place to do that.”
“I really do believe those efforts will pay off. The same recommendations for COVID-19 will prevent the flu, as well.”
Those measures include wearing face masks, social distancing, regular washing or sanitizing of hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based rub, sneezing or coughing into your arm, not touching your eyes, nose or mouth, staying home if you feel unwell and, if you develop a fever, cough and difficulty breathing to seek medical attention.
‘Done very well’
“People have been very mindful” of following those measures, he says, and the North Bay-Parry Sound area has “done very, very well.
“I do believe all the efforts to reduce the impact of COVID will do as well with the flu because they are transmitted in the same way,” he says.
The region has reported a total of 39 positive COVID-19 cases since the middle of March. Thirty-seven of those cases have been resolved and one person is in self-isolation. One person has died of COVID-19 in the region.
Chirico also notes that there was “a very reduced number of cases” of influenza last year, compared to the previous four or five years.
The area has reported between 126 and 298 cases annually with “very little mortality” over those years, he says, although the number of total cases “is obviously likely more” because most people who get the flu don’t go for treatment.
According to JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, both influenza and COVID-19 can present with fever, chills, headache, cough, fatigue and myalgias – muscle aches and pain, which can involve ligaments, tendons and fascia, the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones and organs.
Influenza differs in that it also generally features nasal congestion and sore throat, while COVID-19 can include shortness of breath and loss of the senses of taste and smell.
There are five COVID-19 assessment centres in the region. Appointments must be booked in advance.
The centres are located at:
• Hopital de Mattawa Hospital. Book an appointment by calling 705-744-5511 ext. 0
• North Bay Regional Health Centre. Book an appointment by calling 705-474-8600 ext 4110
• West Nipissing COVID-19 Assessment Centre, 219 O’Hara St., Sturgeon Falls. Book an appointment by calling 705-580-2186
• 75 Ann Street, Bracebridge. Book an appointment by calling 1-888-383-7009
• West Parry Sound COVID-19 Assessment Centre at 70 Joseph St., Parry Sound, Unit 105-106. Book an appointment by calling 705-746-4540 ext 5030
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