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Relaxed restrictions have more Manitobans grabbing a bite, marvelling at museums – CBC.ca

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Stavros Athanasiadis is offering his Winnipeg eatery’s famed burgers to customers he hasn’t served since the pandemic began.

It was a weekend highlight for him. As soon as the province lifted virtually all mandated restrictions on businesses, Athanasiadis, owner of the Red Top Drive Inn on St Mary’s Road, was seeing some smiles he missed.

But he didn’t point fingers at the previous requirements for mask-wearing and proof of vaccination.

He says many of those customers saw the province’s loosening of restrictions announced last Tuesday, along with a declining COVID-19 case count, as licence to return to his diner’s red vinyl seats.

“They wanted to be careful. They want us to be careful. And they’re happy that I didn’t put all my tables back again,” Athanasiadis said of his clientele, which skews older. He’s maintaining his restaurant at 50 per cent capacity for now.

“I think they’re coming back because they feel a little bit more comfortable and they’re double vaccinated, of course. That’s my understanding.”

Flashing vaccine card when not required

In fact, he said a weekend without pandemic limitations didn’t stop guests from entering with their face mask, and some from flashing their proof of immunization card.

“They’re happy to show us their card, even if they don’t ask,” Athanasiadis said. 

He said business increased by 25 to 30 per cent this past weekend. 

As of Saturday, Manitoba is no longer restricting businesses from accepting certain customers.

The province ditched the mask mandate and the condition of full immunization to catch a movie, marvel at a museum exhibit or grab a bite at an indoor restaurant with a long-lost friend. Previously, dine-in service was limited to the fully immunized and people from the same household.

Dauphin Rail Museum, located in a CNR station built more than a century ago, is getting used to letting all guests into the museum, regardless of whether they’re wearing masks and vaccinated. (Submitted/Dauphin Rail Museum)

Jason Gilmore, president of the Dauphin Rail Museum, said it is a bit of a shock to welcome visitors without any public health restrictions restricting who can enter.

“We had such stringent protocols and to go from that to almost no requirements, we’re just trying to get used to that.”

The museum only opened for the summer a few weeks ago. Gilmore said they had to turn away fewer than 10 per cent of visitors because of the previous restrictions.

He anticipates a modest increase in visitors in the days and weeks ahead, but still lower than pre-pandemic years when guests from other provinces and international centres could look back at a century plus of railway history.

Gilmore said he’s comfortable welcoming all visitors to the museum, whether they’re masked or vaccinated.

“I’d probably have a little bit more trepidation if our vaccine rates weren’t where they are in Manitoba,” he said. In Dauphin, 74.9 per cent of eligible residents have at least one vaccine dose, as of last week.

“I know we are going to have visitors from other areas, but I feel pretty safe being double vaccinated.”

Over at Emerald Palace Restaurant in Winnipeg, manager Le Nhan doesn’t hold the same confidence just yet.

Her Chinese restaurant on Sargent Avenue hasn’t been open to indoor dining since the pandemic ushered in a rash of closures. She’ll wait at least two weeks before she considers reopening, she said.

Her customers, though, are getting eager. By mid-day Sunday, she fielded 10 calls from customers clamouring for a return to dine-in. She only got two or three calls on Saturday. 

“If the cases are low and we’re not seeing the spread, the increase in the spread, then we might we might feel more comfortable opening,” Nhan said.

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A new Langya virus has infected 35 people in China. Here's what you need to know – Salon

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Just as COVID-19 began its life as a mysterious virus that crossed over from an animal to humans, it is natural that the public might look at other emergent zoonotic viruses with similar wariness. This, perhaps, explains the recent attention paid to a new Langya virus outbreak in China that has already infected 35 people. Could this lead to another global pandemic?

Fortunately, that is very unlikely, experts say. Unfortunately, that does not mean that the virus is not a threat, as a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that there were 35 infections in a pair of eastern Chinese provinces in 2021.

Yet one reason not to be alarmed is, quite simply, that none of those patients died. Another lies in the nature of the Langya virus itself: It does not appear to have spread through human-to-human contact, and the infected patients all had close contact with animals like fruit bats and shrews, which were likely the original hosts.

RELATED: How 40 years without smallpox vaccinations could make the monkeypox outbreak worse

“There are clearly repeated transmission events from what looks to be a common reservoir in shrews,” Vaughn Cooper, an evolutionary biology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told NBC News. “The team did a very nice job of evaluating alternatives and finding that as the most likely explanation.”

Yet while this virus does not seem to pose a global threat, it is part of a classification of viruses with a long and ugly history. They are known as henipaviruses.


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Henipaviruses are negative-strand RNA viruses that are commonly found in mammals like shrews and fruit bats. Some henipaviruses are very dangerous; the Nipah virus, for instance, has a fatality rate between 40% and 75%. In addition to causing fevers, headaches, coughing and other flu-like symptoms, the Nipah virus can lead to serious side effects like brain swelling (encephalitis), seizures and even comas. Then there is the Hendra virus which has a fatality rate of 57% for the humans that it infects, bringing with it symptoms that can as with the Nipah virus also seem flu-like — and, likewise, can lead to brain swelling and death.

While the Langya virus does not appear to be a global threat, other henipaviruses do pose large problems on the regional level. A February article in the scientific journal PLOS: Neglected Tropical Diseases had this observation about the Nipah virus (NiV).

“Malaysia (43%), Bangladesh (42%), and India (15%) represent all incident cases of human NiV infections worldwide,” the authors explained. “Apart from the human catastrophe of high morbidity and mortality rates during documented epidemic outbreaks, the economic impact is tremendous. After the first NiV outbreak in 1999, Malaysian pig industry and related sectors suffered enormous damage, i.e., 1.1 million pigs were culled costing about US$66.8 million with a total decrease in the Malaysian economy of around 30% during that time.”

The authors also said that a global spread could arise from henipaviruses that can be spread through person-to-person transmission — such as NiV.

“The capacity for NiV to spread in hospital settings between staff and patients was shown in an outbreak 2001 in Siliguri, India, which affected 66 people,” the authors wrote. “The outbreak originated from an unidentified patient admitted to Siliguri District Hospital who infected 11 people. Thus, the ability of NiV to spread from patients to nursing staff has raised concern that the virus might adapt to more efficient human-to-human transmission.”

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Monkeypox may be spreading in Saskatchewan, says Shahab – Regina Leader Post

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The province’s chief medical health officer issued a public advisory about the virus on Saturday, asking people to be aware of the symptoms and to seek testing.

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Health officials are warning that the monkeypox virus may be spreading in Saskatchewan, after several out-of-province cases have been linked back to the province as a place of exposure.

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Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab issued a public advisory about the virus on Saturday, asking people to be aware of the symptoms and to be diligent in seeking testing.

Three cases have been reported in Saskatchewan since early July, Shahab said, all linked to out-of-province transmission or travel.

Shahab said that in-province transmission has now been detected and reported by out-of-province travellers who were exposed in Saskatchewan, prompting the advisory.

“We’re at a stage where we think people are at high risk,” said Shahab. “We think the situation has changed in the last week (and) there is higher risk that we may see ongoing transmission in Saskatchewan.”

Monkeypox is transmitted primarily through prolonged skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact or with items like bedsheets or other surfaces contaminated by a person while infectious. A person can remain infectious for 5 to 21 days after exposure to the virus, said public health.

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Shahab said that transmission without close contact or with an asymptomatic person “is rare,” but public health is still looking to raise awareness about the virus.

He said it’s extremely important for people to know about transmission risk and visible symptoms to help keep the outbreak manageable.

“All of us should be aware of monkeypox symptoms right now, but especially if you think you’ve been in close contact,” said Shahab.

Communities at risk

Transmission so far has been reported in the LGBTQ2S+ and men who have sex with men (MSM) communities, which are currently considered to be at high risk for exposure to the virus.

People are advised to be especially cautious with anonymous sexual partners, and to be conscientious about monitoring for symptoms.

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“It’s very hard to let people know if you’ve had (anonymous) contact,” said Shahab. “It is advisable while this outbreak is happening to limit the number of partners and avoid having anonymous partners that are hard to contact.”

With risk of transmission rising, Shahab said that the province is making the monkeypox vaccine more available.

Vaccine eligibility expanded

Vaccine eligibility previously included only adult individuals who had already been in contact with monkeypox. Criteria will now expand to include individuals pre-exposure, who are considered to be at high risk.

“Having this more focused approach has really helped (other jurisdictions) get ahead of the outbreak,” said Shahab. “We hope that by taking this approach in Saskatchewan, we can try to avoid a quick or high surge of cases.”

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High risk individuals, according to public health, must be transgender, identify as two-spirit, bisexual, gay or MSM, and have either recently had a sexually transmitted infection, had or plan to have sexual contact with one or more partners within the last six months, or plan to travel to an area that is reporting monkeypox cases within the next three months.

The vaccine is currently delivered as one dose but could become a multi-dose immunization as public health follows recommendations made by the National Advisory Committee for Immunization.

Shahab said that when the federal government deployed 99,000 doses to provinces and territories, Saskatchewan was allotted 150 doses and has used seven to date, but more is on the way.

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“We have ordered additional vaccines now that we are offering pre-exposure prophylaxis (and) we will continue to do so on demand,” said Shahab.

Testing is important

People are strongly encouraged to contact HealthLine 811 with concerns about potential exposure, symptoms or vaccine questions, in order to facilitate testing.

“It is important to seek testing, exactly for the reason that we don’t want to miss cases,” said Shahab.

Testing volumes are currently low, said Shahab, but people are encouraged to seek testing if they have any concerns.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely, and we feel that so far that we haven’t missed any cases,” said Shahab. “We just want to do everything we can in that initial surge, and keep case numbers low.”

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Approximately 30,000 cases have been reported globally since the outbreak began in April, with around 1,000 cases identified in Canada, primarily in Quebec and Ontario but also in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that wastewater analysis may be utilized to track transmission rates for monkeypox, similar to COVID-19. World Health Organization declared the virus an international emergency on July 23.

Shahab that tool is not currently in use in Saskatchewan, as case numbers remain too low, but could be used if necessary.

“If there was concern we were missing transmission, wastewater would be useful,” said Shahab.

lkurz@postmedia.com

  1. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer, speaks at the Legislative Building in Regina on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health says there are no reported cases of monkeypox in the province and the risk of getting the disease remains low. However, it says if there were a case, vaccines could be offered to close high-risk contacts based on a public health assessment.

    Sask. offering monkeypox vaccines for close, high-risk contacts

  2. Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, Tuesday, January 12, 2021 in Ottawa. Dr. Theresa Tam says Canada's public health agency is looking to make the most of Canada's waste, and plans to sift through the sewage to test for and measure new health threats like monkeypox, polio, antimicrobial resistant organism and more.

    Canadian wastewater surveillance expanding to new public health threats: Tam

  3. This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP)

    Dyer: WHO’s monkeypox emergency serves as a reminder

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Regina Leader-Post has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe. 

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Canadian wastewater surveillance expanding to new public health threats: Tam – CP24

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Laura Osman, The Canadian Press


Published Friday, August 12, 2022 2:53PM EDT


Last Updated Friday, August 12, 2022 4:53PM EDT

OTTAWA – Plans are underway to sift through Canadian sewage to test for and measure monkeypox, polio and other potential health threats, the country’s chief public health officer said Friday.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater detection became a key way to track the spread of the virus, especially as free lab tests for individuals were phased out for all but a few in later waves.

Dr. Theresa Tam said the experts at the National Microbiology Lab have now discovered a promising approach to detect monkeypox in wastewater and will use the infrastructure developed during the pandemic to look for it.

“Moving forwards, it could form part of our monitoring of the disease activity going up and down across the country,” Tam said at a media briefing.

Tam said the method is complicated, but they’ve landed on something that can “probably” be used more broadly. How that monitoring fits into the Public Health Agency of Canada’s surveillance efforts on monkeypox is not yet clear.

The monkeypox disease comes from the same family of viruses that cause smallpox, which the World Health Organization declared eradicated around the globe in 1980.

Cases of monkeypox began to appear around the world in non-endemic countries in May.

Just this week the number of Canadian cases surpassed 1,000, though there are early signs the virus may now be spreading at a slower rate, Tam said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also intends to start testing for polio as “soon as possible” after U.S. health officials found the polio virus in New York City’s wastewater.

The devastating virus was eradicated from Canada in 1994 and until very recently has not been found in the United States since 1993. Cases have now freshly emerged in Western nations with traditionally high rates of vaccinated people.

A positive case was discovered in New York last month.

The presence of the polio virus in the city’s wastewater suggests the virus is likely circulated locally, health authorities from the city, New York state and the U.S. federal government said Friday.

“We’re already starting to look at what the options are,” Tam said of monitoring for polio in Canada.

Polio tests are just now coming online in Ontario, said Eric Arts, a microbiology and immunology professor at Western University.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved how useful waste can be compared to person-by-person tests, he said, especially when it comes to early detection.

“Instead of testing hundreds of thousands of people kind of randomly to determine if they’re infected with a specific pathogen, or one that we don’t even know is circulating, you can just get a wastewater sample and test 100,000 people with one test,” he said.

Wastewater surveillance can be adapted for other things as well, she said. Even before the pandemic, Tam said the public health agency was looking at ways to scan for antimicrobial resistant organisms, or superbugs as they’re often called.

Wastewater detection is still imperfect though, Tam warned.

“You’re dealing with a slurry of many things with a lot of DNA, RNA, all sorts of things,” Tam said, putting it politely.

That slurry includes countless viruses and virus mutations. Some vaccines, like the oral vaccine for polio given in some countries that includes a live, attenuated virus, can also be confused with the real thing in a wastewater sample.

“It’s not terribly easy,” she said.

Different countries use different methods, Tam said, and even within Canada there’s a lot of innovation happening.

“I think one of the roles of our lab is to then look at the best methods and try and bring some standardization and guidance to that testing,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

– With files from Adina Bresge in Toronto and The Associated Press

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