THUNDER BAY — Active surveillance for blacklegged ticks that have the potential to spread Lyme disease will expand to areas outside Thunder Bay starting next year.
Ticks can infect humans and animals with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease and a variety of serious health impacts.
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit already conducts active surveillance for ticks, using the proven method of dragging a white cloth sheet across the ground, to which ticks attach themselves and are easily spotted.
In 2023, the program will grow significantly with the support of the Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network.
Thunder Bay is a new addition to its list of “sentinel regions” being monitored across the country.
Funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research supported the launch of the network in 2018, followed a year later by the Canadian Lyme Sentinel Network.
It’s a multidisciplinary project involving patients, doctors, social scientists, veterinarians and academic and government researchers focused on improving the diagnosis, surveillance, prevention and treatment of Lyme disease.
One of the first initiatives was the establishment of a national surveillance structure to collect comparable data using standardized methods.
Ken Deacon, coordinator of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit’s vector-borne disease program, said Thunder Bay’s inclusion in the program means that active monitoring for blacklegged ticks will take place next year in five rural areas.
The chosen sites include:
- Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
- Hazelwood Lake
- Upsala (provisional – may be changed)
- Cloud Lake
- Rabbit Mountain off Belrose Road
Blacklegged ticks have never been identified in the first four spots, but the Rabbit Mountain site is what Deacon described as “our guaranteed location” for them, based on several years of ongoing active surveillance.
On Oct. 25, a public health inspector working with a student located 18 blacklegged ticks at Rabbit Mountain in a period of only 45 minutes.
Deacon called that extraordinary, saying the ticks were “super-active” for whatever reason — possibly the mild weather.
“It just goes to show that you have to be at the right place at the right time. If you happen to be walking your dog or going for a hike, this could be very unfortunate for you,” he said.
All 18 ticks have been shipped to a federal lab in Winnipeg for testing for Lyme disease.
“At this time of year, most people think they are safe, but ticks are active right up to 4 C. Today we’re talking about 15 C,” Deacon said in a Monday interview.
He emphasized that personal protection remains necessary unless there is snow on the ground.
If blacklegged ticks are collected at any of the new monitoring sites, Deacon said it will be an indication the population is spreading.
In the case of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, “It’s under a flyway, so there are migratory birds going through, and there’s a good chance they will be dropping off blacklegged ticks.”
Thunder Bay was declared a risk area for Lyme disease by Public Health Ontario in 2019.
Measles exposure warning issued for Vancouver airport and 2 flights – Global News
People who travelled through the Vancouver International Airport last Thursday are being warned they may have been exposed to measles.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control released a bulletin Wednesday, saying a passenger with measles was in the airport on Nov. 23.
“At YVR, the passenger spent time on the route between the arrival gate D73 at the international terminal and at the departure gate C48 in the domestic terminal, where the ill passenger waited for their next flight,” the BCCDC said.
Possible consequences for not vaccinating for measles
The passenger was also aboard the following flights in and out of YVR.
- Air Canada Flight 79 departed from Dubai, United Arab Emirates at 2:17 AM local time and arrived in Vancouver at 6:07 AM Pacific Time
- Air Canada flight 206 departed from Vancouver at 10:36 AM Pacific Time and arrived in Calgary, Alberta at 1:06 PM Mountain Time
The passenger later tested positive for measles in Alberta.
Measles is a highly infectious disease that can be spread by airborne transmission.
The BCCDC said many people are immune due to vaccination or having contracted it as a child. People who are unvaccinated, including children under the age of one, are at highest risk.
‘We are backsliding’ WTO says measles cases nearly triple worldwide
Anyone who was on one of the two flights and was travelling with an unvaccinated infant or who are immunocompromised and not immune to the virus should contact their local public health unit immediately to get post-exposure treatment to minimize risk.
The BCCDC said Wednesday was the last day to receive post-exposure prophylaxis with immunoglobulin to minimize the risk of measles developing.
People who aren’t immune and were exposed could become infected, the BCCDC said, with symptoms developing within seven and 21 days of exposure — in this case, meaning between Nov. 30 and Dec. 14.
Symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes or a rash on the face and neck, spreading to the chest, arms and legs.
Anyone who suspects they have measles should call their doctor or clinic before going in to ensure they don’t expose anyone in the waiting room.
A report from the World Health Organization and U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month found measles deaths had spiked globally by 40 per cent last year and cases rose after vaccinations fell to their lowest levels in 15 years during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The highly infectious disease triggered epidemics in 37 countries last year, versus 22 countries in 2021. It sickened nine million children and killed 136,00, mostly in poorer countries.
WHO announces measles spike, calls to vaccinate kids
— With files from the Associated Press.
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How Canadian scientists helped uncover sexually transmitted cases of a deadlier mpox strain
If 2022 was the year mpox infections exploded globally, 2023 was the year much of the world stopped paying attention.
Yet Canadian researchers, in collaboration with scientists working on the ground in hot spots such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), are still shining a spotlight on the virus that sparked last year’s unprecedented global outbreak — and one that still seems capable of new surprises.
One joint Canadian-DRC research team, co-led by Jason Kindrachuk from the University of Manitoba, has documented what Kindrachuk calls a “massive red flag”: the first known cases of a deadlier strain of mpox spreading through sexual contact.
“This is a real concern for us in regard to the potential for the disease to spread broadly,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the finding in its latest mpox report, and CBC News has obtained the forthcoming paper in which Kindrachuk — and a team of other Canadian, Congolese and international researchers — further outline a cluster of clade I infections linked to sexual transmission.
There are two main forms of mpox virus: clade I and clade II. The global outbreak in 2022 involved clade IIb, which typically leads to milder illness. By year’s end there had been roughly 87,000 infections and more than 100 deaths after the virus spread widely through sexual networks, with the majority of the cases among men who have sex with men.
Infections of that form of mpox leads to an array of painful and sometimes debilitating symptoms, including both internal and external lesions, but relatively few deaths.
Clade I, in contrast, was long estimated to have a death rate of up to 10 per cent, though the most recent WHO report on an ongoing outbreak in the DRC suggests a case fatality rate of close to five per cent.
Until now, it was also thought to spread mainly through close contact, including surface-based transmission.
5 individuals tested positive
The paper from Kindrachuk’s team outlines how a Congolese man, identified by WHO as a resident of Belgium, had sexual contact with another person in Europe. After arriving in the DRC, the man then tested positive for clade I mpox, and reported that he had sexual contact with nine additional partners, including six men and three women.
Five contacts in total ended up testing positive, and all required outpatient treatment and pain control, the research team reported.
Followup investigations also looked at other possible transmission chains involving 120 additional contacts — including other sexual contacts and family members — but none of those individuals developed mpox during 21 days of follow up.
“We have a tiny piece of the puzzle suggesting something is different now,” Kindrachuk said, noting the new finding raises fresh questions about just how often sexual transmission is already happening within the DRC.
Given the increased disease severity associated with this mpox clade, the researchers stressed sexual transmission could impact broader geographical spread of mpox across both clades of the virus.
WHO said another outbreak in the DRC is also being reported, involving multiple cases of mpox among sex workers. These new instances of sexual transmission raise concerns about the rapid expansion of mpox within the country and beyond, given its “internationally mobile” population, the organization continued in its latest report.
DRC experiencing largest annual outbreak
The DRC has been particularly hard hit by the deadlier form of mpox this year. It has been linked to more than 12,000 suspected cases and nearly 600 deaths since the start of the year — the highest number of annual cases ever reported in the Central African nation, WHO figures show.
Worldwide transmission of the milder clade is still simmering as well.
Though WHO ended its emergency designation for mpox in May, and case reporting in many regions has been scaled back since then, hundreds of clade IIb cases were still reported across dozens of countries this fall.
More than a year into the global outbreak, burning scientific questions about how mpox operates remain unanswered, while hot spots throughout Africa that have endured outbreaks for years still don’t have access to vaccines.
“In Congo this year, there are thousands and thousands of cases of mpox, and not a vaccine dose to be found … it’s such a slap in the face to our colleagues [in Africa],” said Kindrachuk.
“We shouldn’t just be responsive when these types of infectious diseases move into our regions or across our borders and start to present a much greater threat.”
The world only became interested in mpox when cases appeared beyond the African continent, said Toronto-based infectious diseases physician Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who is working on DRC mpox research alongside Kindrachuk.
“This [is] an infection that has been recurring and increasing in frequency over the last couple of decades as the smallpox vaccine programs started to wind down,” he said, noting that endemic regions of Africa still lack both vaccines and treatment options.
In contrast, many higher-income countries made vaccines and therapeutics widely available during last year’s outbreak.
Vaccine campaigns launched throughout Canada used a smallpox/mpox vaccine manufactured by Bavarian Nordic, for instance, and health-care providers here have also prescribed the smallpox treatment TPOXX off-label for mpox patients.
Canada-Nigeria team also studying mpox transmission
In Nigeria, where the less-virulent clade II version of mpox has been circulating for years, there is also limited access to vaccines. The country’s largest outbreak took place in 2017, with 228 suspected cases and 60 confirmed infections.
There, another partnership between Canadian and local researchers is also exploring the dynamics of mpox infections. Rosemary Audu, director of research and head of the microbiology department at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, is co-leading that work.
Audu said researchers are collecting samples from multiple sources — including symptomatic sex workers and household pets living with people who had prior mpox infections — to get a better sense of the virus’ transmission patterns and which animals can carry and spread it. It’s already known to infect certain mammals, such as squirrels and monkeys, but scientists aren’t yet sure just how many other species may be susceptible.
“We’re spreading our tentacles wide,” Audu said.
Ongoing research, increased vaccine access, and continued collaboration between international clinicians and virologists are all crucial steps toward understanding and containing this potentially-deadly virus, according to Audu.
“The world is a global village and things can move very easily from one country to another … so I think the best thing to do is just to be vigilent,” she said.
N.B. records spike in COVID hospitalization
New Brunswick saw a spike in COVID-19 hospital admissions between Nov. 12 and 18, according to Public Health.
The latest Respiratory Watch report showed 71 hospitalizations with three people admitted to an intensive care unit.
That was up from the 44 hospitalizations and three ICU admissions reported during the previous week.
Most of the patients — 59 of them — were aged 65 and over. There were also nine people aged 45 to 64, one person aged five to 19, and two people under the age of five.
The ICU admissions all involved people aged 65 and over, according to the weekly report.
Two more patients with COVID died in the hospital during that week, compared to four the previous week. Both were aged 65 and over.
There were 161 new COVID cases reported — up from 122 cases the previous week — and the test positivity rate climbed to 16 per cent.
However, the actual number of new cases is likely much higher as PCR tests are only available when requested by a primary care provider.
In addition, there were 15 lab-confirmed COVID outbreaks reported, including four in nursing homes, compared to 11 outbreaks the week before.
Reported flu cases spike
Meanwhile, New Brunswick is also reporting an increase in the number of people with influenza.
Public Health said there were 26 cases reported between Nov. 12 and 18, accounting for more than half of the cases so far this season.
Four people were admitted to the hospital, including two to an intensive care unit. Most of the patients involved people aged 65 and over.
Public Health said four new influenza-like illness school outbreaks were reported during that week.
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