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Researchers race to study probiotic before white nose syndrome spreads to B.C. bats –



Researchers say a deadly fungus that has nearly wiped out a North American bat species hasn’t yet spread to British Columbia, giving them valuable time to study whether probiotics prevent the disease.

B.C. scientists have been researching the bacteria-laden powder’s effect on white-nose syndrome for the last three years.

The condition kills the bats by forcing them to wake from hibernating and use their energy to groom the fungus off their bodies.

Little brown myotis bats were once considered the most populous species of bats in North America. The disease has decimated them, and the species was declared endangered by the federal government in 2012, just six years after the first case of white-nose syndrome was documented on the continent.

The first bat in Washington state with the syndrome was discovered in 2016.

‘Get out in front’

Cori Lausen, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, said experts have been expecting the disease to spread quickly across the west as it did further east, but that hasn’t happened.

“As far as we know, it is contained to Washington and that is good news for our bats, and for our program, because we’re trying to get out in front of the disease and use a preventive or prophylaxis approach, and that is where the probiotic comes in.”

B.C. bats often raise their young in maternity roosts in the summer and that’s where researchers have been administering the probiotic since 2019.

Lausen said her team will be out spraying the probiotic at three Vancouver-based research sites this spring.

‘Similar to people taking probiotic pills’

She said scientists spray a tiny amount of water into a bat box followed by a powdered clay that contains probiotic cells. Once bats enter the box, a layer of the dust is transferred onto their bodies and wings.

“The microbes just start to grow on the wings alongside all of their natural bacteria. This is similar to people taking probiotic pills, except that the microbiomes we are trying to enhance are the ones on the wings because that’s where the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome grows,” she said.

The probiotic is a combination of four bacterial strains, and other studies have shown that it’s effective in slowing the growth of the fungus on the bat.

The province is home to 14 confirmed hibernating bat species, but big brown, Yuma myotis, and little brown myotis species are being targeted for the Wildlife Conservation Society program because they are most affected by the syndrome, Lausen said.

Smaller hibernation colonies

She said bat hibernation sites are mostly unknown on the west coast, which limits research opportunities.

There have been no confirmed cases of white-nose syndrome in Alberta either, and one potential reason Lausen suggested is hibernation settings. She said bats in the west likely don’t hibernate in large colonies like they do in the east, making them less likely to spread the fungus as rapidly.

She described the probiotic as a “made-in-the-west solution” because most eastern-based scientists have focused on finding cures for already infected animals.

White nose syndrome is caused by a deadly fungus that often spreads from bat to bat during hibernation. (Jordi Segers)

Scientists in Wisconsin, Ill., are working to develop a vaccine, and Lausen said the teams are considering mixing the probiotic and a vaccine in the future.

“They’d actually work really well together because the vaccine requires the bats eat it and, with the application of the probiotic, they often ended up consuming some of it so, we’re actually looking at the potential of a dual purpose by combining them,” she said. “That way, they might get a little bit of protection from the vaccine and a little bit of protection from the probiotic.”

Lausen said the eventual plan is to send B.C. residents kits to spray the probiotic into bat boxes on their properties, though this likely won’t be possible for at least two years.

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DeMille Anticipates Broader Rollout Of 4th Dose Vaccination – Country 105



The Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) is getting ready for the annual flu shot campaign, as well as a broader ask for arms to get the fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The province expanded the second booster dose eligibility on April 7th to those who are 60 and over as well as First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 and over.

“At this time, I’m not hearing any indication of the province opening up (eligibility) to the broader population, and I’m not sure really we would have evidence that would be needed at this time,” DeMille told Acadia News Monday. “We are much lower in terms of the amount of COVID-19 (cases) in the province of Ontario. With the summertime, we see overall less spread (of the virus).”

DeMille did mention that the District anticipates the call will get broader in the fall.

As of June 21st, 133,334 people within the TBDHU have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 80,719 have received three doses.

Officials have given fourth doses to 18,687 individuals as of the last update.

DeMille was also asked about a return to school in September, and what that might look like after Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told Federal MPs on June 8th that there is a real threat of the seventh wave of COVID-19.

The Medical Officer says it’s hard to look into the crystal ball and pinpoint what will happen based on the fact that right now a majority of the new infections are the Omicron variant.

“The schools overall did fairly well,” DeMille stated. “We know that a lot of people did get infected, which can cause a lot of disruption because people still need to isolate so that they are not spreading (the virus) to others. Likely a lot of spread happened in the schools when we re-opened in January and through the last few waves.”

DeMille noted that the schools took a lot of measures that helped in previous waves, including improving ventilation.

“I anticipate that (masking) will always be optional, but when the Omicron variant is spreading, it’s always helpful when people are masking in indoor spaces when they are interacting with others,” said DeMille. “(Down the road) we might recommend that people wear masks in schools, but that advice will really depend on what we see circulating, how much it is circulating and what the impact is on schools.”

DeMille mentioned whether it is the school, the workplace, or any other indoor space, the goal is to return to as normal as possible in an eventual post-pandemic world.

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Monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency, says WHO – Global News



Monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) ruled on Saturday, although WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was deeply concerned about the outbreak.

“I am deeply concerned about the monkeypox outbreak, this is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues and I in the WHO Secretariat are following extremely closely,” Tedros said.

The “global emergency” label currently only applies to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio, and the U.N. agency has stepped back from applying it to the monkeypox outbreak after advice from a meeting of international experts.

Read more:

Canada signs $32.9M contract for smallpox drug with manufacturer Chimerix

There have been more than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death reported in the last six weeks from 48 countries where it does not usually spread, according to WHO.

So far this year almost 1,500 cases and 70 deaths in central Africa, where the disease is more common, have also been reported, chiefly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Monkeypox, a viral illness causing flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading largely in men who have sex with men outside the countries where it is endemic.

It has two clades – the West African strain, which is believed to have a fatality rate of around 1% and which is the strain spreading in Europe and elsewhere, and the Congo Basin strain, which has a fatality rate closer to 10%, according to WHO.

Click to play video: 'More than half of Canadians confident in monkeypox response, but 55% worried about spread: poll'

More than half of Canadians confident in monkeypox response, but 55% worried about spread: poll

More than half of Canadians confident in monkeypox response, but 55% worried about spread: poll – Jun 17, 2022

There are vaccines and treatments available for monkeypox, although they are in limited supply.

The WHO decision is likely to be met with some criticism from global health experts, who said ahead of the meeting that the outbreak met the criteria to be called an emergency.

However, others pointed out that the WHO is in a difficult position after COVID-19. Its January 2020 declaration that the new coronavirus represented a public health emergency was largely ignored by many governments until around six weeks later, when the agency used the word “pandemic” and countries took action.

(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby; additional reporting by Mrinmay Dey; Editing by Sandra Maler)

© 2022 Reuters

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Kingston, Ont., area health officials examining future of local vaccination efforts – Global News



More than 455,000 people in the Kingston region have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Now health officials say they’re using the summer months, with low infection rates, to look ahead to what fall might bring, urging those who are still eligible to get vaccinated do so.

Read more:

Kingston Health Sciences Centre to decommission COVID-19 field site

“Large, mass immunization clinics, mobile clinics, drive-thru clinics and small primary care clinics doing their own vaccine,” said Brian Larkin with KFL&A Public Health.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Gerald Evans says those who are still eligible for a third and fourth dose should take advantage and roll up their sleeves during the low-infection summer months.

“Now in 2022, although you still might get COVID, you’re probably not going to be very sick. You are less likely to transmit and ultimately that’s one of the ways we’re going to control the pandemic,” added Evans.

He expects another wave of COVID-19 to hit in late October to early November and that a booster may be made available for those younger than 60 who still aren’t eligible for a fourth dose.

Read more:

Kingston, Ont. COVID assessment centre cuts hours for the summer

“The best case scenario is a few more years of watching rises in cases, getting boosters to control things and ultimately getting out of it with this being just another coronavirus that just tends to cause a respiratory infection and worst-case scenario is a new variant where all the potential possibilities exist to have a big surge in cases and hopefully not a lot more serious illness,” said Evans.

Public Health says they’re still waiting for direction from the province on what’s to come this fall.

“We’re expecting that we would see more age groups and younger age groups be eligible for more doses or boosters but about when those ages start, we have yet to have that confirmed,” said Larkin.

The last 18 months of vaccines paving the way for the new normal could mean a yearly COVID booster alongside the annual flu shot.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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