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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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What is the Delta variant of coronavirus with K417N mutation?

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 India said on Wednesday it has found around 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Below is what we know about the variant.

WHAT IS DELTA PLUS?

The variant, called “Delta Plus” in India, was first reported in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation called K417N which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

WHERE ALL IT HAS BEEN FOUND?

As of June 16 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994839/Variants_of_Concern_VOC_Technical_Briefing_16.pdf, at least 197 cases has been found from 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday around 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first 5 cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the UK and Indian cases.

WHAT ARE THE WORRIES?

Studies are ongoing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination.”

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council for Medical Research.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Pune, Bhargav Acharya and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru and Alistair Smout in London; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Giles Elgood)

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Colon Cancer Rates Have Increased: How Can You Improve Your Gut Health?

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The majority of colon cancer cases are more common among older citizens. However, research has found that colorectal cancer rates have been rising in healthy people under 50. The rate has increased over the ten years. Medical professionals recommend screening from age 45. A colorectal screening test is done to ensure that the individual does not have any signs of cancer.

A study found that there has been a surge in colorectal cancer in younger generations and could become the dominant cause of cancer-related deaths by 2030. Since the risk is alarming, everyone needs to take their gut health seriously. Here are some things that people can do to improve their well-being.

Consider Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a type of colon cleanse that treats digestive issues such as constipation and bloating. Chronic constipation can lead to colon cancer, so it is vital to deal with the issue before it worsens. Colon hydrotherapy is offered at a few places, including a wellness colonic clinic in Toronto where the staff is committed to providing solutions for their clients’ digestive health.

Cleansing your colon can help improve digestion, relieve constipation, reduce gas, rejuvenate skin, and increase energy. The process involves flushing the colon with a large volume of water. It can be beneficial to speak to the professionals at the clinic and discuss your concerns with them. They will educate you about the process and answer any concerns you may have. The treatment can seem overwhelming but can also be helpful for your gut health.

 

Consume Sensibly

Your food intake plays a significant role in your gut health. If you have gut problems, it may be worthwhile to speak to a doctor and change your diet. You should also consider finding out if you have any food intolerance. There may be trigger foods such as oil or dairy that could be causing discomfort.

Even if you do not have any problems with your food consumption, it is never wrong to watch what you eat. Foods with probiotics or high fibre content can be good for you. Eating the right foods can improve your overall health too.

Stay Hydrated

Water almost seems like a magical drink sometimes. From skin problems to digestive issues, it can improve many situations. Consuming a good amount of water every day can balance good bacteria in the gut and promote your health. Hydration can also help your organs function properly and improve cognitive function.

Say Goodbye to Extreme Stress

It can be challenging to bid farewell to stress forever. However, chronic high levels of stress can impact your abdomen and your overall health. There is a connection between the brain and gut, and stress can cause your stomach to become anxious.

Long-term stress can trigger several gut problems such as indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea. Look for ways to reduce stress levels so that your gut can remain healthy.

Some health problems are inevitable with age, but you can do your best to stay healthy and deal with any issues you face. Prepare yourself to fight any disease beforehand, and your body will thank you.

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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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