Ottawa Public Health is making rapid COVID-19 test kits available for students at 11 schools in Barrhaven and Riverside South, as the area sees a “significant increase” in transmission.
There are COVID-19 outbreaks at 11 schools in the two south-end neighbourhoods, with Half Moon Bay Public School currently closed due to COVID-19 cases. At least 45 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to an outbreak at the Barrhaven Martial Arts Centre, which was cleared to reopen this week by the health unit.
“Ottawa Public Health is closely monitoring a significant increase in COVID-19 activity in the Barrhaven/Riverside South community,” said OPH in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.
“Some areas of Barrhaven/Riverside South are currently experiencing rates of COVID-19 that are over double the average rates compared to the rest of the city of Ottawa.”
To address the rise in cases in the neighbourhoods, the health unit is providing rapid antigen screening tests to all Barrhaven-Riverside South area schools currently experiencing a declared or possible outbreak.
“Students will be provided with a kit of Rapid Antigen Tests to use three times per week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) prior to the holiday break,” said OPH in a statement to CTV News Ottawa on Friday.
“Students may begin to use these tests as soon as they are received and continue to do so for the 1 to 2 weeks of school remaining before the holiday break.”
Ottawa Public Health says the use of rapid antigen tests is “voluntary” and only intended to be used by students who are asymptomatic and have not been told to isolate due to a high-risk exposure.
“Students will be directed to use these rapid antigen tests at home prior to attending school as an added layer of screening,” said OPH.
Schools also have take-home PCR tests for students and staff who develop symptoms and/or who have been told they have had a high-risk exposure.
Ottawa Public Health deployed rapid antigen tests to Carson Grove Elementary School and Chapel Hill Catholic School this fall following closures at the school.
“Rapid antigen tests are for asymptomatic unvaccinated students to use while attending class – not students who have been dismissed as part of an exposed cohort or as high-risk contacts,” said medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches.
On Thursday, Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table endorsed asymptomatic COVID-19 surveillance testing for elementary school students.
The table said that in areas where there are 35 or more weekly cases per 100,000 people, elementary students should be tested with a rapid antigen screening test once per week. In areas with 250 or more weekly cases per 100,000, the science table recommended elementary and high school students be tested two to three times per week.
Two of Adam Fulton’s three children attend St. Emily Catholic School in Barrhaven. There was a case of COVID in his daughter Anna’s Grade 3-4 split class. Just to be safer, Fulton kept his son Charlie home for the week as well.
“We wanted to make sure he stays safe as well as keeping everyone at the school safe,” says Fulton, whose other child is fully vaccinated.
“We kept them home last year in virtual school, all of them so this is really our first experience with an outbreak at a school with classrooms that we are directly involved with. So we’re just taking a really cautious approach right waiting for the data to come in and seeing what the cases are doing over the next 48 to 72 hours.”
Fulton welcomes rapid test kits, saying it’s a move in the right direction, especially as the holiday break approaches.
“Whether it’s getting PCR results back or the rapid tests at home it’s just gives us more confidence and a little bit more safety,” says Fulton, who has not decided if his children will return when class resumes next week. “We’re seeing if the cases are going up or plateauing and stabilizing and it’s just going to help inform our depiction in the days to come.”
Greg Delahunty’s two boys attend Half Moon Bay Elementary School, which closed this week after an outbreak was declared. There are 25 confirmed cases at the school.
“We’re just trying to wade our way through it the best we can,” says Delahunty. “We keep getting notifications there’s a confirmed case on a bus or a confirmed case in one of the classes your kids is in.”
With files from CP24 web content writer Chris Herhalt
Over 1.2 million people died from drug-resistant infections in 2019 – study
More than 1.2 million people died in 2019 from infections caused by bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics, higher than HIV/AIDS or malaria, according to a new report published on Thursday.
Global health officials have repeatedly warned about the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and other microbes due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages microorganisms to evolve into “superbugs”.
The new Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance report, published in The Lancet, revealed that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was directly responsible for an estimated 1.27 million deaths and associated with about 4.95 million deaths. The study analysed data from 204 countries and territories.
“These new data reveal the true scale of antimicrobial resistance worldwide… Previous estimates had predicted 10 million annual deaths from AMR by 2050, but we now know for certain that we are already far closer to that figure than we thought,” said Chris Murray, co-author of the study and a professor at the University of Washington.
Last year, the World Health Organization warned that none of the 43 antibiotics in development or recently approved medicines were enough to combat antimicrobial resistance.
Cornelius Clancy, professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said one of the ways to tackle AMR is to look at a new treatment model.
“The traditional antibiotic model that we’ve had for past number of decades since penicillin. I think it is tapped out.”
Most of 2019’s deaths were caused by drug resistance in lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia, followed by bloodstream infections and intra-abdominal infections.
AMR’s impact is now most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, while around one in five deaths is in children aged under five years.
There was limited availability of data for some regions, particularly many low and middle-income countries, which may restrict the accuracy of the study’s estimates.
Clancy said the focus has been on COVID-19 for the past two years, but AMR is a “long-term kind of challenge”.
(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Devika Syamnath)
Study casts doubt on reliability of rapid antigen tests in kids; COVID transmission through breastmilk unlikely
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.
Rapid antigen tests may be unreliable in children
When used in children, rapid antigen tests for detecting the coronavirus do not meet accuracy criteria set by the World Health Organization and U.S. and UK device regulators, according to researchers who reviewed 17 studies of the tests.
The trials evaluated six brands of tests in more than 6,300 children and teenagers through May 2021. In all but one study, the tests were administered by trained workers. Overall, compared to PCR tests, the antigen tests failed to detect the virus in 36% of infected children, the researchers reported on Tuesday in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. Among children with symptoms, it missed 28% of infections. Among infected kids without symptoms, the tests missed the virus in 44%. Only about 1% of the time did the tests mistakenly diagnose the virus in a child who was not actually infected.
Given that more than 500 antigen tests are available in Europe alone, the authors said, “the performance of most antigen tests under real-life conditions remains unknown.” But the new findings “cast doubt on the effectiveness” of rapid antigen tests for widespread testing in schools, they concluded.
Breastmilk transmission of COVID-19 unlikely
A new study appears to confirm smaller, earlier studies that suggested nursing mothers are unlikely to transmit the coronavirus in breastmilk.
Between March and September 2020, researchers obtained multiple breastmilk samples from 110 lactating women, including 65 with positive COVID-19 tests, 36 with symptoms who had not been tested, and a control group of 9 women with negative COVID-19 tests. Seven women (6%) – six with positive tests and one who had not been tested – had non-infectious genetic material (RNA) from the virus in their breastmilk, but none of the samples had any evidence of active virus, according to a report published on Wednesday in Pediatric Research. Why breastmilk would contain coronavirus RNA but not infectious virus is unclear, said study leader Dr. Paul Krogstad of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, “Breastmilk is known to contain protective factors against infection, including antibodies that reflect both the mother’s exposure to viruses and other infectious agents and to vaccines she has received,” he noted.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that before breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, or expressing milk, women with COVID-19 should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. The CDC also recommends that they wear a mask when within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of the baby.
New technique may speed vaccine, antibody drug development
Researchers are working on a way to speed development of vaccines and monoclonal antibody drugs for COVID-19 and other illnesses, shortening the time from collection of volunteers’ blood samples to identification of potentially useful antibodies from months to weeks.
As described in Science Advances on Wednesday, the new technique employs cryo-electron microscopy, or cryoEM, which involves freezing the biological sample to view it with the least possible distortion. Currently, “generation of monoclonal antibodies involves several steps, is expensive, and typically takes somewhere on the order of two to three months, and at the end of that process you still need to perform structural analysis of the antibodies” to figure out where they attach themselves to their target, and how they actually work, explained Andrew Ward of Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.
In experiments using the new approach to look for antibodies to HIV, “we flipped the process on its head… by starting with structure,” Ward said. Because cryoEM affords such high resolution, instead of having to laboriously sort through antibody-producing immune cells one by one to identify promising antibodies, the process of identifying antibodies, mapping their structure and seeing how they are likely to attack viruses and other targets goes much faster, he added. “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for such robust and rapid technologies,” his team concluded.
Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
Vaccination plus infection offered most protection during Delta surge, U.S. study shows – CBC News
Protection against the previously-dominant Delta variant was highest among people who were both vaccinated and had survived a previous COVID-19 infection, according to a report published Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The report also found those who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials reported on Wednesday.
Protection against Delta was lowest among those who had never been infected or vaccinated, the CDC report continued.
“The evidence in this report does not change our vaccination recommendations,” Dr. Ben Silk of the CDC and one of the study’s authors told a media briefing.
“We know that vaccination is still the safest way to protect yourself against COVID-19,” he said.
The findings do not apply to the Omicron variant of the virus, which now accounts for 99.5 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
Study includes data from May to November
For the study, health officials in California and New York gathered data from May through November, which included the period when the Delta variant was dominant.
It showed that people who survived a previous infection had lower rates of COVID-19 than people who were vaccinated alone.
That represented a change from the period when the Alpha variant was dominant, Silk told the briefing.
“Before the Delta variant, COVID-19 vaccination resulted in better protection against a subsequent infection than surviving a previous infection,” he said.
In the summer and fall of 2021, however, when Delta became the predominant circulating iteration of the virus in the United States, “surviving a previous infection now provided greater protection against the subsequent infection than vaccination,” he said.
But acquiring immunity through natural infection carries significant risks. According to the study, by Nov. 30, 2021, roughly 130,781 residents of California and New York had died from COVID-19.
The analysis did not include information on the severity of initial infection, nor does it account for the full range of illness caused by prior infection.
One important limitation to the study was that it ended before administration of vaccine booster doses was widespread.
WATCH | Experts agree the science behind booster shots is sound:
‘Clearly shows’ vaccines provide safest protection
Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health, said in an email that the study “clearly shows” that vaccines provide the safest protection against COVID-19 and they offer added protection for those with prior infections.
“Outside of this study, recent data on the highly contagious Omicron variant shows that getting a booster provides significant additional protection against infection, hospitalization and death,” Pan said.
Silk said the CDC is studying the impact of vaccination, boosters and prior infection during the Omicron surge and expects to issue further reports when that data becomes available.
So far, Omicron has proven to evade some level of immunity from both vaccination and previous infection, but vaccines are still largely preventing serious illness and death.
An Israeli hospital on Monday also said preliminary research indicates a fourth dose of leading mRNA-based vaccines provides only limited defence against infection from the variant.
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