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Some Quebec overnight camps are being forced to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks

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MONTREAL — Summer camp season in Quebec has been cut short for hundreds of children who have been sent home due to COVID-19 outbreaks, only a few days after the start to some of the province’s overnight camps.

Outbreaks, mostly among counsellors, have shut down at least three overnight camps across the province, Éric Beauchemin, with an association representing Quebec summer camps, said Tuesday.

“People were getting infected one after the other and before losing 25 of them, parents were asked to come and pick up their children,” said Beauchemin, with Association des camps du Québec.

About 500 children and staff were sent back home over the past few days, Beauchemin said in an interview, adding that parents would be refunded for the missed days.

Overnight camps were allowed to reopen last summer after they were prohibited from operating in 2020 because of the pandemic, but Beauchemin said this year is different.

“Last year, we had mandatory measures such as PCR tests before arriving at camps, social distancing, masks,” he said. “This year, we have recommendations.”

The association was scheduled to meet with Health Department officials on Tuesday, and Beauchemin said he hoped to convince the government to reimpose some health orders, such as mandatory masking and COVID-19 PCR testing.

Quebec’s Health Department, however, said in a statement on Tuesday that it “does not seem appropriate to systematically test all participants and employees, whether upon arrival at the camp or upon contact with a confirmed case.” The department added that it was up to the camps’ owners to decide whether to shut down in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Beauchemin said the fact that there are little to no COVID-19 health orders in place compared with last summer, in addition to widespread staff shortages, is making the situation even harder to handle.

“We all had our guards down,” he said, adding that there were no COVID-19 outbreaks during the summer of 2021.

“It’s the first time we are dealing with a summer wave.”

In Ontario, a large overnight camp outside Huntsville, located 215 kilometres north of Toronto, said it would close for several weeks due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among staff.

“Unfortunately, like all industries, the summer camping industry is not immune to potential virus spread as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect communities across Ontario and around the world,” Ontario Camps Association executive director Joy Levy said in a statement Tuesday.

Camp Ouareau, in Quebec’s Lanaudière region, reported nine cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, all among staff. Stephane Richard, the camp’s director of operations, said employees started developing symptoms at the end of June, a week after the season’s first campers arrived.

“It was a difficult decision to make, to close temporarily, but our priority is the safety of our campers and our staff,” Richard said in an interview. He said he planned to reopen July 13.

Dr. Don Vinh of the McGill University Health Centre says the situation at camps, coupled with the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, suggests Quebec is experiencing a summer wave of the disease.

“The wave is now,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “We need to mitigate the problem now by reimplementing some measures.”

Meanwhile, Quebec reported a 147-patient rise in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday. Health officials said 1,441 people were hospitalized with the disease, after 378 patients were admitted in the past 24 hours and 231 were discharged. There were 39 people in intensive care, an increase of three cases.

Vinh criticized the Quebec government for promoting a return to normal life without imposing health measures, such as proper ventilation and increased access to COVID-19 testing.

“We tried to go back to a normal life, in this case going back to camps,” Vinh said.

“We should have done it safely and do things like request one or two negative rapid tests, make sure that everyone is adequately vaccinated … there should still be measures in place … so what it was, is pretend the pandemic is over when clearly it wasn’t.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 5, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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Polio vaccine boosters offered to kids in London as virus linked to New York case detected – ABC News

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Children in London are being offered polio vaccine boosters after sewage samples with the virus were found in multiple areas across the city.

The U.K. Health Security Agency announced Wednesday that all children between ages 1 and 9 across the British capital will be eligible to receive an inactivated polio vaccine booster.

“This will ensure a high level of protection from paralysis and help reduce further spread of the virus,” the agency said in a statement.

“While the majority of Londoners are protected from polio, the [National Health Service] will shortly be contacting parents of eligible children aged 1 to 9 years old to offer them a top-up dose to ensure they have maximum protection from the virus,” Jane Clegg, chief nurse for the NHS in London, added.

There are more than 1 million children between those ages who live in London as of mid-2020, the latest year for which data is available, according to the U.K. Office of National Statistics.

This 2014 illustration made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts a polio virus particle.

Sarah Poser, Meredith Boyter Newlove/CDC via AP, FILE

Between February 8 and July 5 of this year, poliovirus has been detected in 19 sewage samples across nine boroughs including at Beckton Sewage Treatment Works in London, which is the largest sewage treatment plant in the U.K.

Recently, a report indicated a polio case in New York was genetically linked to the samples found in the U.K.

Polio vaccines are part of routine immunizations for children. In the U.S., vaccinated children are not recommended to get a booster shot at this time.

According to the UKHSA, the booster program will begin in the areas where the virus has been detected and where vaccination rates are lowest before being rolled out across the city.

“The NHS in London will contact parents when it’s their child’s turn to come forward for a booster or catch-up polio dose — parents should take up the offer as soon as possible,” the agency’s statement read.

On July 21, health officials reported a case of polio was discovered in Rockland County in New York — just north of New York City — in a 20-year-old unvaccinated man.

The man contracted vaccine-derived polio, which means he was infected by someone who received the oral polio vaccine, which is no longer used in the U.S. or the U.K.

The oral vaccine uses a live weakened virus, which — in rare cases — can spread through fecal matter and infect unvaccinated individuals. Comparatively, the injectable polio vaccine, uses an inactivated virus.

As of Aug. 5, 11 samples were genetically linked to the Rockland County patient including six samples collected in June and July from Rockland County and five samples collected in July from nearby Orange County, health department data shows.

However, health officials have said the majority of the population is not at risk for polio because most were vaccinated as part of their regular childhood immunizations, but that it’s important for those who are unvaccinated to get their shots.

The New York State Health Department told ABC News its focus would be on ensuring immunizations.

“Our current focus is to ensure unvaccinated New Yorkers and children get immunized against polio and that they are up to date with their polio immunization schedule,” the department said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the organization in the U.S. that makes vaccine recommendations, but has not suggested any such move to add a fifth dose of polio vaccine to the current vaccine schedule underway.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

The agency recently told ABC News the U.S. health agency is deploying a team to New York to investigate the case in Rockland County. The team will also administer vaccines in the county.

“These efforts include ongoing testing of wastewater samples to monitor for poliovirus and deploying a small team to New York to assist on the ground with the investigation and vaccination efforts,” the agency said in a statement.

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Monkeypox: Manitoba's top doctor gives vaccine update | CTV News – CTV News Winnipeg

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Manitoba will be offering more vaccination appointments for monkeypox.

A news release from the province Thursday confirmed that additional appointments will be available “soon,” but no dates were listed.

Appointments can be made online or by calling Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or toll-free at 1-888-315-9257.

Manitoba recently expanded eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine, but on Monday, tweeted all appointments were booked.

To date, no monkeypox cases have been found in Manitoba.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said the province has a “scarce resource” of the monkeypox vaccine.

“It has to be stored properly, and it’s scarce because there are outbreaks happening in other jurisdictions,” he said. “We want to do whatever we can to avoid any wastage.”

While infections have primarily been reported in the gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) population, Roussin said it is important to avoid stigmatizing populations.

“There is a balance between risk communication and doing whatever we can to avoid stigmatizing those populations,” he said.

Roussin added the province will be releasing data on total monkeypox vaccines administered next week.

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Canada to start testing some wastewater for polio 'as soon as possible' – CBC News

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After new reports of polio cases abroad, and virus samples in the wastewater of several other developed countries, Canada intends to start testing wastewater from a number of cities “as soon as possible,” CBC News has learned.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) already works to monitor polio activity around the world, a spokesperson said in an email response to CBC News questions.

Currently, PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg does have the diagnostic tools available to test samples for poliovirus. Any suspected positive Canadian samples of poliovirus will be sent to that lab for further laboratory analysis and confirmation, with results shared with the respective local health authorities “so appropriate public health measures can be taken if necessary.”

According to the statement, PHAC has been communicating with national and international partners who are experts in this field to finalize a wastewater testing strategy. It will be testing wastewater samples that were collected earlier this year from “key high-risk municipalities” to determine if polio was present prior to the reported international cases. 

PHAC will also be sending samples to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for additional confirmation.

“However, it is important to acknowledge that accurately testing wastewater for poliovirus is a developing science,” the statement continued. “For example, wastewater detections can be affected by extreme precipitation events, such as flooding in a community.”

WATCH | 100s could be infected with polio in New York state: 

100s could be infected with polio in New York, health officials say

2 days ago

Duration 2:19

A health official in New York State says hundreds of people could be infected with the polio virus.

Reports of polio in U.S., U.K., Israel

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.

The agency said it was working closely with health authorities in the U.S. and Israel, as well as the World Health Organization, to investigate the links between polio viruses detected in those two countries. 

In July, Israel announced a recent outbreak of polio infections appeared to be under control, after multiple people became infected, including a Jerusalem girl who was paralyzed and now requires rehabilitation, according to the Jerusalem Post.

More recently, in the state of New York, one unvaccinated young adult suffered paralysis after a polio infection in Rockland County — an area known for low vaccination rates — which marked the first case reported in the U.S. in nearly a decade. 

Outbreaks also remain common in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Africa — areas of the world where vaccination efforts have not yet eradicated the virus.

Polio can often be asymptomatic, but in some cases, the viral infection can lead to paralysis or death.

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