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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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Polio virus found in New York City wastewater, suggesting local transmission – CBC News

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Health officials identified the virus that causes polio in New York City’s wastewater, suggesting local transmission of the virus, state authorities said on Friday, urging unvaccinated New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

“The NYC Heath Department and the New York State Department of Health have identified poliovirus in sewage in NYC, 
suggesting local transmission of the virus,” the city’s health department said in a statement on Friday.

“Polio can lead to paralysis and even death. We urge unvaccinated New Yorkers to get vaccinated now.”

The identification comes weeks after a case of polio in an adult was made public on July 21 in Rockland County, marking the nation’s first confirmed case in nearly 10 years.

Earlier this month, health officials said the virus was found in wastewater in the New York City suburb a month before health officials there announced the Rockland County case.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at the time that it was not clear whether the virus was actively spreading in New York or elsewhere in the United States.

Evidence of virus in London

There is no cure for polio, which can cause irreversible paralysis in some cases, but it can be prevented by a vaccine made available in 1955.

New York officials have said they are opening vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their shots. 

Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine that has been given in the United States since 2000, according to the CDC. It is given by shot in the leg or arm, depending on the patient’s age.

On Wednesday, British health authorities announced they will offer a polio booster dose to children aged one to nine in London, after finding evidence the virus has been spreading in multiple regions of the capital. Britain’s Health Security Agency said polio virus samples were found in sewage water from eight boroughs of London, but there were no confirmed infections.

Polio is often asymptomatic and people can transmit the virus even when they do not appear sick. But it can produce 
mild, flu-like symptoms that can take as long as 30 days to appear, officials said.

It can strike at any age but the majority of those affected are children aged three and younger. 

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Monkeypox: gov’t has no plans to call public health emergency – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says there are no plans at the moment to declare monkeypox a public health emergency.

While the World Health Organization and the United States have both recently done so, Tam said there is little benefit to declaring a federal public health emergency in Canada, because of the structure of regional and provincial public health authorities.

She said a federal emergency declaration would involve the Emergencies Act — which hasn’t even been invoked to address the nearly two-and-a-half-year COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. Tam said thus far, Canada has already been able to mobilize vaccines, therapeutics, and funding to tackle monkeypox.

Tam also said local and provincial authorities have more flexibility, and have been able to respond to the rise in monkeypox cases. Local and provincial authorities could also decide to declare the virus a public health emergency at those levels, as many did with COVID-19.

“To date our discussions have focused on testing, working with community organizations to raise awareness on ways to limit spread the virus, and deployment of the Imvamune vaccine and therapeutics,” Tam said. “As the global monkeypox outbreak continues to be a serious concern, focusing efforts on the impacted communities in Canada and worldwide, including with vaccinations, we have an opportunity to contain the spread.”

To day, approximately 99,000 doses of Imvamune have been deployed to the provinces and territories, and more than 50,000 people have been vaccinated, Tam said.

Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the approach continues to be vaccinating higher risk communities first, and there are currently enough doses to do so.

Tam says there have been approximately 31,000 cases of monkeypox reported globally, with 1,059 in Canada, mostly in Ontario.

While cases of the virus first started popping up in Quebec, Ontario has since surpassed it in its number of infections.

To date, there have been 28 hospitalizations — two in intensive care — from monkeypox in Canada, and no deaths. Tam said it’s too soon to tell whether the number of cases has plateaued in Canada.

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COVID-19 vaccine side-effects less likely in pregnant people, says study – CP24

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Pregnant people experienced lower rates of side-effects from the COVID-19 vaccine than their counterparts who weren’t pregnant, a new Canadian study suggests.

The Canadian National Vaccine Safety Network collected data from 191,360 vaccinated women aged 15 to 49 between December 2020 and November 2021. The researchers asked participants to report “significant health events” that were serious enough to make them miss school or work, seek medical attention or disrupt their routines.

Of 5,597 pregnant participants, four per cent reported a significant health event within seven days of receiving their first dose of an mRNA vaccine, and 7.3 per cent of 3,108 pregnant respondents said they had side-effects from their second shots.

Among those who weren’t pregnant, 6.3 per cent of 174,765 respondents reported a significant health event after dose one, and 11.3 per cent of 10,254 participants said they felt sick after dose two.

“One of the things that was really striking was that the rates of these events happening in pregnant people was lower than the rates happening in non-pregnant people at the same age,” said Manish Sadarangani, lead author of the paper published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Thursday. “It’s very reassuring around the safety of COVID vaccines and pregnancy.”

Studies on other vaccines have found that pregnant people experience side-effects at roughly the same rate as those who aren’t pregnant or even slightly higher, said Sadarangani, an investigator at BC Children’s Hospital.

More research is needed to understand why this might not be the case for mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, Sadarangani said, but he suspects the physical transformation of pregnancy could be a factor.

“There’s a lot of hormonal and immunological and physiological changes happening during pregnancy, and some of them we understand, some of them we don’t,” he said. “I’m presuming that some of these changes are leading to these lower rates.”

Thursday’s study found that rates of serious health events after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, such as hospitalization, were similarly rare across all groups.

There was no significant difference in the rates of miscarriage or stillbirth among participants who were vaccinated and those who weren’t.

Researchers are conducting a followup survey to see if participants experienced any side-effects six months after their COVID-19 shots, Sadarangani said.

Pregnant people are at increased risk of COVID-19 complications, he said, so it’s all the more important that researchers continue to study how vaccination affects them and their babies.

“All of the data we have really highlight the safety of all of these vaccines in pregnancy,” said Sadarangani. “Ultimately, this is the best way to protect this group of people in our population.”

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

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