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Remember the flu? It's back in N.L. for the first time in 2 years – CBC.ca

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Cases of influenza are popping back up in Newfoundland and Labrador after being non-existent since June 2020. (Prostock-studio/Shutterstock)

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting its first cases of Influenza in almost two years, with an outbreak of 75 reported cases in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region experiences.

According to data from the Department of Health, the batch of cases are the province’s first since June 2020. A total of 81 cases have been reported in recent weeks: 75 in Labrador-Grenfell Health, five in Eastern Health and one in Western Health.

For context, the province reported 708 cases of influenza during 2019 and 2020 — the last time the data needed to be shared, as no cases were reported for the past 23 months. A spokesperson for the department says weekly reporting of influenza cases will resume this week.

Dr. Joanne McGee, medical officer of health for Labrador-Grenfell Health, said Monday the province has seen a much lower prevalence of influenza with the spread of COVID-19 in the past two years. However, cases have been spotted sporadically across the country in the last month or so.

“We’ve had a number of confirmed cases of Influenza-A … affecting many communities in our region,” said McGee. “We’ve been preoccupied with COVID-19, and certainly there have been very few, if any, cases of influenza. But it can be quite serious.”

There are a number reasons why flu cases could be down over the course of the pandemic.

In October, Memorial University biochemistry professor Sherri Christian told CBC News measures to prevent COVID-19 like mask-wearing likely limited the spread of the flu, which also meant the flu could reeemerge as public health restrictions started to lift.

Some medical experts have also shared the concept of “viral influence”: the idea that prevalent viruses like SARS-CoV-2 can keep other pathogens like the ones that cause influenza out of public circulation for a period of time.

McGee said influenza will affect different people in different ways but can be more serious for people who are immunocompromised or have respiratory conditions like asthma.

But, she added, it can be difficult to differentiate influenza from COVID-19, as they share many common symptoms.

“The symptoms you can get with COVID-19 or with influenza can be similar in terms of fever, sore throat, muscle aches and pains, fatigue,” she said. “Then there are some people who have the illness with very mild symptoms and some people who have no symptoms at all.”

The number of flu shots given out has gone down over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, McGee said. Flu shots are available at clinics across the province. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBCNEWS)

If a person feels ill, McGee said, they should fill out the province’s online COVID-19 self-assessment form to see if they qualify for a PCR test to determine if the illness is COVID-19.

“If your symptoms can be managed at home, there really is no need to present to the emergency room or your clinic to be assessed for a viral illness that probably will run its course,” she said.

Flu shots are also widely available at clinics across the province, McGee said, because the number of flu shots administered has dropped during the pandemic.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Some in B.C. cross U.S. border for their next COVID-19 vaccine – Global News

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Global News Hour at 6 BC

There is evidence of the lengths some British Columbians will go to get a second booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — crossing the border to Point Roberts, WA for a shot. The movement comes thanks to the different approach to the fourth shot south of the border. Catherine Urquhart reports.

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Unknown hepatitis in children: Will it become a pandemic too? – CGTN

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03:56

The number of cases of a mysterious acute hepatitis in children continues to increase worldwide, with most cases occurring in Europe. As of May 10, 348 suspected cases had been reported in at least 20 countries. Information and data have pointed to an adenovirus called adenovirus-41 (HAdV-41) as the possible culprit. Does it have anything to do with COVID? Will it become a pandemic? How do we protect ourselves from it?

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Study tracks hospital readmission risk for COVID-19 patients in Alberta, Ontario – CBC.ca

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A new study offers a closer look at possible factors that may lead to some hospitalized COVID-19 patients being readmitted within a month of discharge.

At roughly nine per cent, researchers say the readmission rate is similar to that seen for other ailments, but socio-economic factors and sex seem to play a bigger role in predicting which patients are most likely to suffer a downturn when sent home.

Research published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal looked at 46,412 adults hospitalized for COVID-19 in Alberta and Ontario during the first part of the pandemic. About 18 per cent — 8,496 patients — died in hospital between January 2020 and October 2021, which was higher than the norm for other respiratory tract infections.

Among those sent home, about nine per cent — 2,759 patients — returned to hospital within 30 days of leaving, while two per cent — 712 patients — died. The deaths include patients who returned to hospital.

The combined rate of readmission or death was similar in each province, at 9.9 per cent or 783 patients in Alberta, and 10.6 per cent or 2,390 patients in Ontario.

For those wondering if the patients were discharged too soon, the report found most spent less than a month in hospital and patients who stayed longer were actually readmitted at a slightly higher rate.

“We initially wondered, ‘Were people being sent home too early?’ … and there was no association between length of stay in hospital and readmission rates, which is reassuring,” co-author Dr. Finlay McAlister, a professor of general internal medicine at the University of Alberta, said from Edmonton.

“So it looked like clinicians were identifying the right patients to send home.”

Examining the peaks

Craig Jenne, an associate professor of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary who was not involved in the research, said the study suggests that the health-care system was able to withstand the pressures of the pandemic. 

“We’ve heard a lot about how severe this disease can be and there was always a little bit of fear that, because of health-care capacity, that people were perhaps rushed out of the system,” Jenne said. “There was a significant increase in loss of life but this wasn’t due to system processing of patients.

“Care was not sacrificed despite the really unprecedented pressure put on staff and systems during the peaks of those early waves.” 

The study also provides important insight on the power of vaccines in preventing severe outcomes, Jenne said.

Of all the patients admitted with COVID-19 in both provinces, 91 per cent in Alberta and 95 per cent in Ontario were unvaccinated, the study found.

The report found readmitted patients tended to be male, older, and have multiple comorbidities and previous hospital visits and admissions. They were also more likely to be discharged with home care or to a long-term care facility.

McAlister also found socio-economic status was a factor, noting that hospitals traditionally use a scoring system called LACE to predict outcomes by looking at length of stay, age, comorbidities and past emergency room visits, but “that wasn’t as good a predictor for post-COVID patients.”

“Including things like socio-economic status, male sex and where they were actually being discharged to were also big influences. It comes back to the whole message that we’re seeing over and over with COVID: that socio-economic deprivation seems to be even more important for COVID than for other medical conditions.”

McAlister said knowing this could help transition co-ordinators and family doctors decide which patients need extra help when they leave the hospital.

‘Deprivation’ indicators

On its own, LACE had only a modest ability to predict readmission or death but adding variables including the patient’s neighbourhood and sex improved accuracy by 12 per cent, adds supporting co-author Dr. Amol Verma, an internal medicine physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

The study did not tease out how much socio-economic status itself was a factor, but did look at postal codes associated with so-called “deprivation” indicators like lower education and income among residents.

Readmission was about the same regardless of neighbourhood, but patients from postal codes that scored high on the deprivation index were more likely to be admitted for COVID-19 to begin with, notes Verma.

Verma adds that relying on postal codes does have limitations in assessing socio-economic status since urban postal codes can have wide variation in their demographic. He also notes the study did not include patients without a postal code.

McAlister said about half of the patients returned because of breathing difficulties, which is the most common diagnosis for readmissions of any type.

He suspected many of those problems would have been difficult to prevent, suggesting “it may just be progression of the underlying disease.”

Looking at readmissions is just the tip of the iceberg.-Dr. Finlay McAlister-Dr. Finlay McAlister

It’s clear, however, that many people who appear to survive COVID are not able to fully put the illness behind them, he added.

“Looking at readmissions is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s some data from the [World Health Organization] that maybe half to two-thirds of individuals who have had COVID severe enough to be hospitalized end up with lung problems or heart problems afterwards, if you do detailed enough testing,” he said.

“If you give patients quality of life scores and symptom questionnaires, they’re reporting much more levels of disability than we’re picking up in analyses of hospitalizations or emergency room visits.”

The research period pre-dates the Omicron surge that appeared in late 2021 but McAlister said there’s no reason to suspect much difference among today’s patients.

He said that while Omicron outcomes have been shown to be less severe than the Delta variant, they are comparable to the wild type of the novel coronavirus that started the pandemic.

“If you’re unvaccinated and you catch Omicron it’s still not a walk in the park,” he said.

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