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Quebec unprepared for coronavirus outbreak, says Montrealer back from China

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“It would be a miracle if the virus didn’t start spreading in Canada,” said the woman, who decided to quarantine herself upon arrival back in Montreal on Jan. 28.

A Montreal woman who returned recently from China says Quebec’s health-care system is woefully unprepared to deal with a coronavirus outbreak, and she criticized what she called the province’s slow and lax response to the global public health emergency.

The 50-year-old woman, who immigrated to Quebec more than two decades ago, visited her family for the Chinese New Year but cut short her trip to Tianjin, a city south of Beijing, after the 2019-nCoV virus started spreading through China last month.

“It would be a miracle if the virus didn’t start spreading in Canada,” said the woman, who decided to quarantine herself upon arrival in Montreal on Jan. 28 — nine days before Quebec’s top public health officer urged people returning from Hubei province to isolate themselves at home.

The woman, who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity for fear of a public backlash, had visited relatives far from mainland Hubei, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, where almost 32,000 people have been infected and nearly 1,000 have died.

Still, she contacted the Montreal Gazette in the hope that authorities adopt a more vigilant approach to the coronavirus. On Feb. 3, she wrote to Health Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault to express her concerns.

She urged the prime minister to follow the travel restrictions the United States adopted on that same date barring entry to foreign nationals from China.

“Canada should follow the example of many other countries to better protect its people and to prevent further spreading of the virus around the globe by refusing all non-Canadian visitors who were recently in China,” she said, quoting from her letter.

“Prevention is the most efficient and easiest way to avoid any potential catastrophe before it is too late.”

In 2003, the woman’s husband returned from a trip to China during the SARS epidemic. Even back then, she recalled, her husband chose to stay at home in their Montreal apartment for two weeks — even though he didn’t have any symptoms — while she and their children lodged temporarily with relatives.

“The Quebec and Canadian governments haven’t learned anything from SARS,” the woman said, noting that Canada only decided to impose a two-week quarantine for Canadians returning from Hubei days after the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom did so.

On Monday, the U.K. government declared the coronavirus “a serious and imminent threat to public health,” outlining sweeping new powers allowing the health secretary to force people into mandatory isolation if they present a risk of spreading the disease. The British announcement followed the news that the number of people in the U.K. with the respiratory illness doubled to eight, including two new cases involving health-care workers.

To date, Canada has reported seven coronavirus cases — four in British Columbia and three in Ontario — the same as last week.

Addressing reporters on Monday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, reiterated there are no plans to adopt a U.S.-style travel ban from China.

“Of course we will be evaluating all these measures on an ongoing basis, but right now we believe (the existing measures have struck) the right balance in protecting the health of Canadians,” Tam said.

Officials with the Prime Minister’s Office and Legault’s office were not immediately available for comment. On Friday, Health Minister Danielle McCann announced Quebec has selected four hospitals as potential coronavirus treatment centres.

But the woman countered that Quebec’s hospitals and ERs are already so overburdened, it would probably be impossible for them to deal with the sudden pressures of a coronavirus outbreak.

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How Revelstoke handled the Spanish flu – Salmon Arm Observer

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This isn’t the first time Revelstoke has gone through a pandemic.

The devastating Spanish flu struck Canada hard 100 years ago. Interestingly, the disease’s name is a misnomer as it didn’t originate on the Iberian Peninsula, but was the result of widespread misunderstanding.

Spain was one of the few countries in Europe to remain neutral during the First World War. Unlike Germany and Britain, where wartime censors suppressed news of the flu to avoid impacting morale, the Spanish media was free to report in gory detail.

Since countries undergoing a media blackout could only read in-depth accounts from Spanish news they assumed the country was the pandemic’s epicentre and the name stuck.

Yet, it’s unknown where the flu originated. The theories vary but include wartime trenches, farmers in Kansas or even Chinese labourers. Regardless, the illness wiped out up to 100 million people between 1918 and 1920, which is more than double those killed in battle during the First World War.

The disease travelled the globe, largely dispersed by returning troops.

In the spring of 1918, the flu arrived in Canada through the ports of Québec City, Montréal and Halifax.

Armistice Parade in Revelstoke, November 11, 1918. Although there was a pandemic on at the time, people still went to some gatherings and stood shoulder to shoulder. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

Cathy English, curator for the Revelstoke museum, said there were 6,000 people at that time in the Revelstoke area. There were no roads from Sicamous or Golden, so it’s likely the disease arrived by train.

By October, the city had its first death. Mike Bzulynski died at the age of 26. The following day Harry Turnross, 23, died. Two days later, Mrs. Antje Versteegh, 74, followed.

The deaths continued, sometimes daily, for the next several months. The outbreak killed the young and healthy, turning their strong immune system against them in a way that was unusual for flu.

According to reports, some people died within hours of becoming ill, their skin turned blue and their lungs filled with fluids, causing them to suffocate.

“The nursing staff in Revelstoke were hit particularly hard,” English said.

To stop the spread, churches, theatres and club meetings were disbanded. Schools shut and the teachers became nurses to replace those becoming ill.

“It was a hard time,” English said.

Similar to COVID-19, experts said the widespread transmission of the Spanish flu around the globe was partly due to a lack of immunity in the population. There was also no vaccine.

Queen Victoria Hospital, circa 1919. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

Regardless, newspapers advertised advice and cures. One Revelstoke article suggested soaking cotton balls in alcohol and chloroform, placing it between one’s teeth and inhaling. In 24 hours, the article said the patient should be saved.

Ruby Nobbs wrote in Revelstoke – History and Heritage that everyone in her family fell ill and she was forced to nurse them.

Nobbs was 12 years old at the time. Unlike today, there was little to none government aid. As a result, the Department of Health was created in 1919, from then on, public health was a responsibility shared by all levels of government.

By mid-November, the Revelstoke Review proclaimed the worst was over as deaths slowed.

The flu ban was conditionally lifted, opening schools and churches.

After being fumigated and ventilated, the theatre also reopened with a showing of a Mary Pickford movie.

However, by Christmas, the flu ban was reinstated as the second wave of disease hammered through the city.

By mid-January 1919, bans were lifted permanently. In total, the flu killed 37 people.

While many gatherings were cancelled locally during the Spanish flu, some continued, such as the Armistice parade on Nov. 11, 1918. Photos show folks standing shoulder to shoulder to watch the entertainment and celebrate peace.

“They weren’t social distancing like today,” English said.

She said it appears as if people were not as concerned about congregating.

“Maybe they were just excited to be at the end of war.”

The World War I Armistice Parade marched all over Revelstoke. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3627)

Closures to help stop the spread of disease continued on and off through the 1920s for measles and polio. Yet, English said Revelstoke has never experienced anything to the extent of the closures brought on by COVID-19.

“There have been temporary bans, but nothing like this,” she said.

For now, it’s unknown when normality will return, but the province said it won’t happen this month and most likely not the next.

English wonders how this pandemic will be remembered.

The museum said it’s able to glean what Revelstoke was like during the Spanish flu through newspaper accounts.

Due to plunging advertising revenues caused by the novel coronavirus, media outlets across Canada are closing. For example, on April 2, the Vancouver Courier suspended both its print and online news.

“How will we preserve the memories from this significant event?” English asked.


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

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Queen Victoria Hospital, circa 1919. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

The World War I Armistice Parade marched all over Revelstoke. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3627)

The Spanish Flu hit Revelstoke in the fall of 1918. Although schools and churches were closed during the Spanish flu pandemic, some large gatherings went ahead. Cathy English, curator at Revelstoke Museum, they were not social distancing like today. This is Armistice Parade in Revelstoke, November 11, 1918. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3638)

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How Revelstoke handled the Spanish flu – Lake Country Calendar

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This isn’t the first time Revelstoke has gone through a pandemic.

The devastating Spanish flu struck Canada hard 100 years ago. Interestingly, the disease’s name is a misnomer as it didn’t originate on the Iberian Peninsula, but was the result of widespread misunderstanding.

Spain was one of the few countries in Europe to remain neutral during the First World War. Unlike Germany and Britain, where wartime censors suppressed news of the flu to avoid impacting morale, the Spanish media was free to report in gory detail.

Since countries undergoing a media blackout could only read in-depth accounts from Spanish news they assumed the country was the pandemic’s epicentre and the name stuck.

Yet, it’s unknown where the flu originated. The theories vary but include wartime trenches, farmers in Kansas or even Chinese labourers. Regardless, the illness wiped out up to 100 million people between 1918 and 1920, which is more than double those killed in battle during the First World War.

The disease travelled the globe, largely dispersed by returning troops.

In the spring of 1918, the flu arrived in Canada through the ports of Québec City, Montréal and Halifax.

Armistice Parade in Revelstoke, November 11, 1918. Although there was a pandemic on at the time, people still went to some gatherings and stood shoulder to shoulder. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

Cathy English, curator for the Revelstoke museum, said there were 6,000 people at that time in the Revelstoke area. There were no roads from Sicamous or Golden, so it’s likely the disease arrived by train.

By October, the city had its first death. Mike Bzulynski died at the age of 26. The following day Harry Turnross, 23, died. Two days later, Mrs. Antje Versteegh, 74, followed.

The deaths continued, sometimes daily, for the next several months. The outbreak killed the young and healthy, turning their strong immune system against them in a way that was unusual for flu.

According to reports, some people died within hours of becoming ill, their skin turned blue and their lungs filled with fluids, causing them to suffocate.

“The nursing staff in Revelstoke were hit particularly hard,” English said.

To stop the spread, churches, theatres and club meetings were disbanded. Schools shut and the teachers became nurses to replace those becoming ill.

“It was a hard time,” English said.

Similar to COVID-19, experts said the widespread transmission of the Spanish flu around the globe was partly due to a lack of immunity in the population. There was also no vaccine.

Queen Victoria Hospital, circa 1919. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

Regardless, newspapers advertised advice and cures. One Revelstoke article suggested soaking cotton balls in alcohol and chloroform, placing it between one’s teeth and inhaling. In 24 hours, the article said the patient should be saved.

Ruby Nobbs wrote in Revelstoke – History and Heritage that everyone in her family fell ill and she was forced to nurse them.

Nobbs was 12 years old at the time. Unlike today, there was little to none government aid. As a result, the Department of Health was created in 1919, from then on, public health was a responsibility shared by all levels of government.

By mid-November, the Revelstoke Review proclaimed the worst was over as deaths slowed.

The flu ban was conditionally lifted, opening schools and churches.

After being fumigated and ventilated, the theatre also reopened with a showing of a Mary Pickford movie.

However, by Christmas, the flu ban was reinstated as the second wave of disease hammered through the city.

By mid-January 1919, bans were lifted permanently. In total, the flu killed 37 people.

While many gatherings were cancelled locally during the Spanish flu, some continued, such as the Armistice parade on Nov. 11, 1918. Photos show folks standing shoulder to shoulder to watch the entertainment and celebrate peace.

“They weren’t social distancing like today,” English said.

She said it appears as if people were not as concerned about congregating.

“Maybe they were just excited to be at the end of war.”

The World War I Armistice Parade marched all over Revelstoke. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3627)

Closures to help stop the spread of disease continued on and off through the 1920s for measles and polio. Yet, English said Revelstoke has never experienced anything to the extent of the closures brought on by COVID-19.

“There have been temporary bans, but nothing like this,” she said.

For now, it’s unknown when normality will return, but the province said it won’t happen this month and most likely not the next.

English wonders how this pandemic will be remembered.

The museum said it’s able to glean what Revelstoke was like during the Spanish flu through newspaper accounts.

Due to plunging advertising revenues caused by the novel coronavirus, media outlets across Canada are closing. For example, on April 2, the Vancouver Courier suspended both its print and online news.

“How will we preserve the memories from this significant event?” English asked.


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won’t find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Queen Victoria Hospital, circa 1919. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3634)

The World War I Armistice Parade marched all over Revelstoke. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3627)

The Spanish Flu hit Revelstoke in the fall of 1918. Although schools and churches were closed during the Spanish flu pandemic, some large gatherings went ahead. Cathy English, curator at Revelstoke Museum, they were not social distancing like today. This is Armistice Parade in Revelstoke, November 11, 1918. (Photo supplied by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #3638)

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UBC researchers claim find of COVID-19 trial drug – Burnaby Now

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University of British Columbia researchers say they have found a trial drug that blocks the cellular door the virus uses to infect people with COVID-19.

“There is hope for this horrible outbreak,” said UBC Life Sciences Institute director Dr. Josef Penninger.

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Penninger said the drug might soon be ready for testing.

He said a global team’s work provides new insights into the  SARS-CoV-2 virus and its interactions on a cellular level, as well as how the virus can infect blood vessels and kidneys.

“We are hopeful our results have implications for the development of a novel drug for the treatment of this unprecedented outbreak,” he said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said March 20 that Thailand , Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland will be involved in a multi-country clinical study for potential treatments for COVID-19, part of a rapid global search for drugs to treat COVID-19.

Penninger’s team’s findings were published in the science journal Cell Friday.

Penninger said the finding holds some promise for a treatment capable of stopping early infection of the novel coronavirus that, as of April 4, has affected more than 1.16 million people and claimed the lives of 62,491people worldwide.

The study has involved researchers from Vancouver, Toronto, Spain and Sweden.

Penninger explained that cell membrane-surface protein ACE2 plays a key role in the outbreak.

In earlier work, Penninger and colleagues at the University of Toronto and the Institute of Molecular Biology in Vienna identified ACE2 as the key receptor for SARS, the viral respiratory illness recognized as a global threat in 2003.

What the new finding means, Penninger  said, is that “the absence of a clinically proven antiviral therapy or a treatment specifically targeting the critical SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 on a molecular level has meant an empty arsenal for health care providers struggling to treat severe cases of COVID-19.”

“Our new study provides direct evidence that a drug – called APN01 (human recombinant soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 – hrsACE2) – soon to be tested in clinical trials by the European biotech company Apeiron Biologics, is useful as an antiviral therapy for COVID-19,” said University of Toronto Dr. Art Slutsky, also a scientist at Toronto’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science at St. Michael’s Hospital.

What the researchers found through cell cultures is that the drug inhibited the coronavirus load. Using engineered replicas of human blood vessel and kidneys  – “organoids” grown from human stem cells – the researchers demonstrated the virus can directly infect and duplicate itself in such tissues.

What can be drawn from that, they said, is key information on the disease’s development and that severe cases of COVID-19 can lead to with multi-organ failure and cardiovascular damage.

“Clinical grade hrsACE2 also reduced the SARS-CoV-2 infection in these engineered human tissues,” they said.

 “Using organoids allows us to test in a very agile way treatments that are already being used for other diseases, or that are close to being validated,” said Prof. Núria Montserrat of the Institute for Bioengineering in Catalonia, Spain.

“In these moments in which time is short, human organoids save the time that we would spend to test a new drug in the human setting,” Montserrat said.

“The virus causing COVID-19 is a close sibling to the first SARS virus,” Penninger said. “Our previous work has helped to rapidly identify ACE2 as the entry gate for SARS-CoV-2, which explains a lot about the disease, he said.

“Now, we know that a soluble form of ACE2 could be indeed a very rational therapy that specifically targets the gate the virus must take to infect us.

The WHO team’s work, dubbed Solidarity, will test four different drugs or combinations – remdesivir, a combination of two drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir, the two drugs plus interferon beta, and chloroquine – and will compare their effectiveness to what is called standard of care – the regular support hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

“This global problem requires urgent global solutions,” said WHO’s representative to Thailand, Daniel Kertesz. “The goal is to identify medicines that will save lives in the global battle to fight this virus.”

Research by Penninger’s team was supported in part by the Canadian federal government through emergency funding focused on accelerating the development, testing and implementation of measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo

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