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Sask. Health Authority declares syphilis outbreak – Prince Albert Daily Herald

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Dr. Khami Chokani, a medical health officer in Prince Albert for the SHA, speaks to media on Dec. 19, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

The Saskatchewan
Health Authority (SHA) has declared a syphilis outbreak in
north-central Saskatchewan, including in the Prince Albert area.

According to a press
release issued Thursday, an outbreak has been declared for the area
that includes Prince Abert, Big River, Shellbrook, Spiritwood, Birch
Hills, Christopher lake and surrounding communities. Syphilis is a
sexually-transmitted infection (STI) spread from person to person
through direct contact with a syphilis sore.

The outbreak was
declared because, in the four months from August to November, 21
cases were confirmed. The average number of annual cases in the
region is seven or fewer.

“That has prompted
us to declare an outbreak so that we can pull our resources together
(and) work together with other health care professionals,” said Dr.
Khami Chokani, medical health officer Prince Albert with the SHA.

The aim, he said, is
to investigate why the outbreak has occurred and identify what gaps
might exist or challenges people might be facing.

“We want people to
be safe,” he said.

“It is primarily
spread through person-to-person contact. It is also spread from the
mother to an unborn baby. That is what is driving us more than
anything else because the age group that is predominately affected is
that reproductive age group. It puts… our unborn population at
risk.”

The outbreak is the
third declared in Saskatchewan this year. One was declared int the
North Battleford-Lloydminster area in June, and Indigenous Services
Canada reported 83 new cases across the province’s 82 Indigenous
communities this year, a 2,000 per cent increase since 2017.

The local outbreak
has hit people of all ages, from 25 right up to 65, Chokani said.

“It’s a whole
spectrum. It’s hitting anybody who is sexually active.”

One thing many of
the cases here and elsewhere have in common is it is increasing in
young people and women of child-bearing age having unprotected sex
with multiple partners.

According to a
report from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix from just one week ago, 43 per
cent of syphilis cases this year were women, compared to just seven
per cent in 2017.

The leading risk
factor in new cases in the province is a previous STI. But Dr.
Ibrahim Khan

said he’s worried
by a newer trend driving syphilis infections: sex fuelled by crystal
meth.

“We also saw
crystal meth play a role,” Khan said. “When you use meth, you
usually aren’t too worried about using a condom.”

Some of those trends
are playing out in Prince Albert too.

Chokani said that in
over 90 per cent of cases, the person infected did not use a condom.
About 46 per cent had been using a drug.

“We do know that
some drugs — the side effect is inhibitions are lowered,” he
said.

“We’re going to be
doing a look back. Us having an outbreak will allow us to investigate
what has been going on and what has caused this. Because we just
don’t go from six cases in a year to 21 in four months.”

Saskatchewan’s
outbreak follows similar trends across Canada and in the United
States. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates syphilis rates
in Alberta, for example, increased by more than 800 per cent this
year.

It’s also not the
only STI on the rise; rates of gonorrhea in Saskatchewan have
increased by more than 80 per cent since 2016. In the 2017-18 federal
budget, $4.3 million was allotted to fight the spread of STIs in
Saskatchewan.

Heather Hale,
executive director of Saskatoon Sexual Health, said the silver lining
of the rising figures is that more people are getting tested and
catching the illness early. Her centre has seen a 72 per cent
increase in the number of tests conducted compared to the same period
last year.

“If you’re doing
more testing, that usually means you’re going to have more
incidents,” Hale said.

For people at risk,
the best step is to seek medical advice — either from a local
physician or any sexual health clinic.

Getting tested is
important, Chokani said, as for many people, Syphilis can be
asymptomatic.

“It can remain
like that for decades and only reappear several decades later. A
feature of infectious syphilis is a sore, and it is painless and
disappears in seven to ten days whether you put treatment on it or
not,” he said

“Because it
disappears does not mean you don’t have an infection. now the
infection has the opportunity to spread and stay within your body.”

Chokani said a
frustration is that even when people do get tested, they sometimes
aren’t available for a follow-up. Tracking down people who have
gotten tested has also reportedly been difficult in other
jurisdictions.

Syphilis is
treatable, Chokani said, but you have to know you have it. The
testing is a simple blood test, and treatment is a pair of
injections. It can take 21 days after treatment to be cured of the
infection.

He added that the
health authority estimates that each positive case had at least four
other contacts, meaning the current 21 cases could have impacted as
many as 84 people.

“Voila – that is a
challenge. When you go see your family physician or nurse
practitioner, give them some contact information you know you can be
gotten ahold of at because it’s really, really important,” he said.

Chokani believes
part of the reason it can be so hard to track people down is because
they don’t want to know their results.

“Even when they’re given their results, they’re not coming back for their treatment,” Chokani said.

“We’re not saying don’t have sex, have it, but be safe take all the precautions that are necessary for you to be safe.”

“We are humans, it is difficult to expect that people will always be abstinent. but what we can ask is people always be safe. if there is a doubt, a question, go get yourself tested. There’s nothing better than knowing what it is and getting yourself treated. When you have it treated, great, you’re good to go.”

— With Daily Herald files from Jayda Noyes and StarPhoenix files from Zak Vescera

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Quebec reports 2,225 new COVID-19 cases, 67 deaths as hospitalizations decline – SooToday

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MONTREAL — Quebec reported 2,225 new COVID-19 cases and 67 further deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Saturday as the province marked one week since instituting a curfew and tougher public health measures.

In announcing the most recent tally, Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted Saturday that all Quebecers need to continue to follow public health rules to ensure cases and hospitalizations go down.

Quebec has now reported more than 9,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, but hospitalizations dropped for a second day, this time by 22 for a total of 1,474 patients.

There were also four fewer patients in intensive care for a total of 227.

Among the measures introduced one week ago was a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. with police dolling out fines to those who are contravening the order.

A group braved a snowstorm to gather in east-end Montreal to denounce the province’s decision to employ a police solution, saying the curfew has a “symbolic effect” but only serves to create a “climate of fear.”

Organizers said in a statement the provincewide curfew — a first in Canada — is “unacceptable”, “absurd” and “dangerous,” particularly for the most vulnerable in society.

Earlier this week, Dube said it was too early to say whether the new measures, which will last until at least Feb. 8,  are having the desired effect. 

The hard-hit province has now reported 240,970 confirmed infections and 9,005 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, with 210,364 recoveries.

Quebec currently has 21,640 active cases.

Meanwhile, the province said it was working on an updated vaccine distribution plan after Dube announced Friday that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine won’t be delivered as planned between now and Feb. 8.

The drugmaker is upgrading its European production facilities to increase the number of doses it can produce, meaning a reduction in output.

“This decrease in arriving vaccines implies a revision of the objectives presented in recent days,” the province’s Health Department said in a statement on Friday. “Teams are actively working to establish a new dose distribution plan in accordance with the vaccination priorities established.”

On Thursday, Quebec announced its vaccination rollout, which includes waiting between 42 and 90 days to administer a second booster in an effort to vaccinate as many Quebecers as possible amid mounting pressure on the health-care system.

“The strategy adopted by the public health authorities is to immunize as many people as possible with priority groups,” the department said. “All vaccine doses received will therefore be used for this purpose.”

Quebec has administered 137,856 doses of COVID-19 vaccine including 62,733 people in the past seven days and 10,783 people on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press


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Canada says first COVID-19 vaccine for refugees in Jordan offers glimmer of hope – rdnewsnow.com

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By Canadian Press

Jan 15, 2021 12:06 PM

OTTAWA — Canada’s international development minister says the world’s first inoculation of a refugee with a COVID-19 vaccine this week is an important milestone in ending the pandemic everywhere.

Karina Gould tells The Canadian Press that inoculating the world’s most vulnerable people offers a glimmer of hope that the pandemic can be brought under control everywhere.

A woman living in the northern Jordanian city of Irbid who had fled northern Iraq became the first United Nations registered refugee to receive the vaccine on Thursday.

Before the pandemic Canada committed $2.1 billion in security, humanitarian and development funds to help Jordan and neighbouring Lebanon cope with the massive influx of refugees they face due to the crises in Syria and Iraq.

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Doctors told to bin leftover vaccines instead of administering second doses – Yahoo Canada Sports

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The Canadian Press

Bills advance to AFC championship with 17-3 win over Ravens

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — In what was supposed to be a showdown between Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Taron Johnson literally stole the show. If not for the wall separating the field from the stands in the back of the east end zone, the Bills cornerback might still be running after returning an interception 101 yards for a touchdown that propelled Buffalo to its first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years. Johnson’s pick-6 of Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter helped secure a 17-3 win over the Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night. “We’re excited. It’s not done yet, we’re not done yet,” Johnson exclaimed. “It’s just a blessing. Our defence stepped up to the challenge.” Johnson’s return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offence to 150 yards on 32 carries. Jackson, last season’s NFL MVP, was sacked three times and did not return after sustaining a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored. He finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries. Allen, an MVP candidate this year, finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards and a touchdown. In a season in which the Bills relied mostly on their dynamic Allen-led offence to outscore opponents, the third-year quarterback was gratified to see Buffalo’s defence make a difference in a game the pass-happy attack was kept mostly in check. “I can’t say enough words for what that game was for our defence,” Allen said. “Taron Johnson’s is a play that people are going to remember for a long time here in Buffalo, potentially a franchise-altering play.” The Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994 on their way to making — and losing — their four consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first post-season game since the same year. The Bills, have won eight straight to match their best streak since 1990 and will play the winner of the AFC’s other divisional playoff between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday. The fifth-seeded Ravens (12-6) had their season come to an end after leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive year. Baltimore clinched its third playoff berth in three years by winning its final five regular-season games. The winning streak came after a 1-4 skid capped by a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 in a game rescheduled three times due to COVID-19 issues. “It’s a sad moment, but this team has been through a lot,” tight end Mark Andrew said. “It’s tough right now, but teammates and coaches and camaraderie, it was a group of special guys that worked hard, came to work every day and didn’t take anything for granted. We’re going to hold our heads high and come back and work.” Tied at 3 after the first half, the Bills took control in the third quarter. Buffalo went ahead 10-3 on Allen’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs to cap an 11-play, 66-yard opening drive. The Ravens threatened to answer on their next drive, which ended with Johnson’s interception. With Baltimore facing third-and-goal from the 9, Johnson jumped in front of the pass intended for Andrews and took off up the right sideline. He followed teammate Tre’Davious White, who made sure Jackson didn’t have an angle to push Johnson out of bounds. Johnson, who also returned an interception for a score in a 26-15 win over Pittsburgh on Dec. 13, said he initially thought about going down after catching the ball, before seeing no one in front of him. “I caught the ball and kind of looked down, but then I looked up and saw a whole bunch of green grass to that side of me,” he said. “At that point, there’s one person I have to beat. And that’s No. 8 (Jackson).” Johnson’s interception return matched Packers defensive back George Teague’s INT return in Green Bay’s 28-24 win over Detroit in a wild-card playoff on Jan. 8, 1994. Things turned worse for Baltimore two snaps later, when Jackson was forced out of the game. Facing second-and-10 at Baltimore’s 25, centre Patrick Mekari snapped the ball over Jackson’s head. The quarterback turned and chased the bouncing ball down inside the 5, turned and quickly threw it away as Tremaine Edmunds had him by the legs and Trent Murphy fell on top of him. Jackson’s injury left Tyler Huntley to finish the game after being promoted off the practice squad. “I’m not frustrated at all,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in announcing Jackson sustained a concussion. “The players are disappointed. It’s tough to lose a game. Our guys played like crazy, and if you don’t win the game you’re going to feel it.” MISSING KICKS Gusting winds played havoc with the kickers. Baltimore’s Justin Tucker, the NFL’s most accurate kicker, hit the left upright from 41 yards and the right upright from 46 yards, before hitting a 34-yard attempt. It was the first time he missed twice from inside 50 yards in the same game. Buffalo rookie Tyler Bass missing two of three field goal attempts — a 43-yarder that was wide right in the second quarter and a 44-yarder that sailed wide left with 5:30 remaining. PRACTICE SQUAD TO PLAYOFFS Huntley, who had attempted just five passes in two appearances this season, finished 6 of 13 for 60 yards on three drives, the final two in which Baltimore turned the ball over on downs. UP NEXT Ravens: Season over. Bills: Advance to AFC championship game for first time since 1994, where they’ll face Cleveland or play Kansas City for a second time this season following a 26-17 loss to the Chiefs on Oct. 19. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL John Wawrow, The Associated Press

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