Local Journalism Initiative
Regina– Three more weeks. That’s the length of the most recent extension of public health orders in Saskatchewan meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. Premier Scott Moe made the announcement from the Legislature in Regina on Jan. 26 with chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab. The announcement came on a day when Saskatchewan posted yet another record for COVID-19 related deaths, 14, but has seen a slow drop in new case counts. There are now 2,665 cases are considered active, and on that day, 607 recoveries were reported. Moe said. “The number of new cases in Saskatchewan continues to gradually decline. Today we are reporting 232 new cases, and our seven-day average for new cases is now 254. This is down about 20 per cent from its peak of 321 on Jan. 12. Our active cases are now down to 2,665, the lowest level since Nov. 21, and down over 40 per cent from a peak of 4,763 on Dec. 7. “This gradual decline means that our current public health orders and restrictions are working, but we need to leave them in place a little longer. Therefore, all the current public health orders are being extended for three weeks until Feb. 19.” “These measures are working, when we follow them, as the vast majority of Saskatchewan people and businesses are doing. There have been a small number of mainly bars and restaurants who may not have been following those putting their staff putting their customers and essentially putting their communities at risk. So, I have asked that we increase enforcement on those who choose to break the rules, and in recent days there has been three significant tickets.” Moe also said that two bars in Saskatoon and one in Regina had been issued $14,000 fines. He held out the hope that three weeks from now, Saskatchewan may be able to look at reducing the number of restrictions in place. He pointed out that the province has made a lot of progress in vaccinations. To date, 34,080 doses have been delivered, and those administering it are quite literally getting the most out of every bottle, getting 104 per cent of expected dosages. Moe said, “But we continue to be limited by the slow pace of vaccine deliveries, from to and from the federal government. Saskatchewan now has the highest percentage of vaccines administered, and we have the second-highest per capita rate of vaccinations completed among any of the provinces. “Unfortunately, today we are virtually out of vaccines. And with no new shipments coming this week, our vaccination program will be stalled for the next number of days.” Next week, the province is expecting 12,000 additional doses, of which 5,850 will be Pfizer doses heading to Saskatoon, Regina, North Battleford, Yorkton and Swift Current to allow continued vaccination of long-term care residents and staff, as well as those over 70. A further 6,500 Moderna doses will be going to the far northeast, far northwest, and northeast regions of the province for a second doses. In the central-west region, first shots will be administered, Moe said. The province will continue to push the federal government for more vaccines, and to also look at approving additional types of vaccines for use. He referenced the vaccines that AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have been working on. Shahab said, “I think it’s really important that we are seeing a steady decline in our case numbers; all the indicators are moving in the right direction is slow and steady.” Daily case numbers have come down from 24 per 100,000 population to 20 per 100,000. Test positivity is down under 10 per cent, and is doing so throughout the province. When vaccination starts picking up in March and April, “then we hope to see significant impact on hospitalization and deaths,” he said. Until then, we really have to stay the course. “The other thing is that, with our public health measures, some people say it’s too little, some people say it’s too much. But, you know, they try to strike a fine balance between minimizing cases, as long as the guidelines are followed, and letting people work, (and) enjoy other amenities as much as possible.” He added, “But the downward trend does show, that if all of us abide by public health principles, it has a significant impact on our case numbers.” On the same day, Manitoba implemented 14-day quarantines for nearly all travellers to that province. Asked about doing something similar for Saskatchewan, Shahab said it have been looked at, but found to be impractical, given our long borders, and people in border communities who work and shop across the border. But he did recommend minimizing travel. Regarding variants of the COVID-19 virus, Shahab said sampling is done with relation to travel, and some sampling with age groups and geography as well. “I would not be surprised if we saw a variant in Saskatchewan, but again, what we’re doing, is exactly the same. We really have to follow all these public health measures.” Asked about adverse reactions to the vaccines in Saskatchewan, Shahab said there have been around 10 to 15 allergic reactions, some tingling on the face, and one anaphylaxis that was managed safely. They were well-described in the product monograph and have been managed, he said. “Most of them have presented in individuals who may have had a history of allergies, and they have managed well, so at this point the signal is not of any concern, compared to what is known about these vaccines what we were expecting, with what’s know about other vaccines.” He noted the importance of watching those vaccinated for 15 minutes after the shot, and if you have any allergies, make it known and you will be monitored some more. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
Monkeypox: Cases found and suspected in Portugal, Spain – CTV News
Portuguese authorities said on Wednesday they had identified five cases of rare monkeypox infection and Spain’s health services are testing eight potential cases after Britain put Europe on alert for the virus.
The five Portuguese patients, out of 20 suspected cases, are all stable. They are all men and they all live in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, the Portuguese health authorities said.
European Health authorities are monitoring any outbreak of the disease since Britain has reported its first case of monkeypox on May 7 and found six more in the country since then.
None of the eight suspected cases in Spain has been confirmed yet, the Spanish Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder, first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade.
Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.
It is not particularly infectious between people, Spanish health authorities said, and most people infected recover within a few weeks, though severe cases have been reported.
Four of the cases detected in Britain self-identified as gay, bi-sexual or other men who have sex with men, the U.K. Health Security Agency said, adding evidence suggested there may be a transmission in the community.
The agency in Britain urged men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.
The Spanish Health Ministry and Portugal’s DGS health authority Spanish did not release any information on the sexual orientation of the monkeypox patients or suspected patients.
The two countries sent out alerts to health professionals in order to identify more possible cases.
(Reporting by Patricia Rua in Lisbon and Christina Thykjaer in Madrid; Editing by Inti Landauro and Alison Williams)
Long Covid Patients' Symptoms Helped After Vaccination in Study – BNN
(Bloomberg) — Fewer Covid-19 patients reported lingering symptoms from the infection after getting vaccinated, according to a study that suggests the shots could help alleviate the burden of long Covid.
A first vaccine dose after infection with the virus was associated with a 13% decline in the odds of having long Covid and a second shot with a 9% drop in the study published Thursday in the BMJ. Over the course of seven months in 2021, researchers regularly visited the households of more than 28,000 people to ask whether they were experiencing symptoms long after infection.
The findings, together with evidence that long Covid is reduced in those infected after vaccination, suggest that jabs may help decrease the prevalence of persisting symptoms.
“The large scale of this study means that we can be fairly confident about what has been observed, but it does not mean we can be sure what it means,” said Peter English, a former chair of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee.
“The most obvious — and perhaps the most likely inference — is that vaccination does prevent at least some cases of long Covid, and may reduce the severity of symptoms,” he said in emailed comments. But “we cannot yet say this with any confidence.” English wasn’t involved in the research.
An estimated 1.8 million people in the UK had reported experiencing long Covid as of April 2022, with two in three people saying the symptoms had affected their day-to-day activities, according to the latest Office for National Statistics data.
The scientists who ran the study called for more research to “understand the biological mechanisms underpinning any improvements in symptoms after vaccination, which may contribute to the development of therapeutics for long Covid.”
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
Europe, US on alert after new monkeypox cases emerge – Al Jazeera English
US, Spain and Portugal announce cases of rare viral infection, two weeks after UK identified its first case.
Health authorities are on alert for the spread of monkeypox, a rare viral disease first reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s, after new cases emerged in Europe, and the United States confirmed its first infection.
Portugal said on Wednesday it had identified five cases of monkeypox, Spain said it was testing 23 potential cases, and the US state of Massachusetts announced it had found a case in a man who recently travelled to Canada.
The United Kingdom was the first to confirm a case of monkeypox earlier this month. It has now detected seven cases and is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate the virus’s spread after being unable to make a link between the initial case, in a man who had travelled from Nigeria, and the more recent ones.
Health authorities suspect some of the infections may have occurred through sexual contact – in this instance among gay or bisexual men – with four of the UK cases identified among people who visited sexual health clinics after developing the rash associated with monkeypox.
“No source of infection has yet been confirmed for either the family or GBMSM clusters,” the WHO said in a statement in Wednesday. “Based on currently available information, infection seems to have been locally acquired in the United Kingdom. The extent of local transmission is unclear at this stage and there is the possibility of identification of further cases.”
Monkeypox, which is similar to human smallpox, typically begins with a flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes, followed by a rash on the face and body. Most people recover from the illness, which is endemic in parts of central and western Africa and usually the result of close contact with infected animals, within a few weeks, but it can be fatal.
The five Portuguese patients, out of 20 suspected cases, are all in a stable condition, according to the country’s health authorities. They are all men who live in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, they added.
Health authorities in Madrid said the cases discovered in Spain appeared to be linked to sexual contact.
“In general, its transmission is via respiratory drops but the characteristics of the 23 suspected infections point to it being passed on through bodily fluids during sex relations,” they said in a statement, without giving further details.
“All of them are young adult males and most of them are men who have sexual relations with other men, but not all of them,” Elena Andradas, head of public health in the Madrid region, told Cadena Ser radio.
US health officials said the Massachusetts man who developed monkeypox went to Canada to see friends at the end of April and returned home in early May. He is currently being treated in hospital.
Jennifer McQuiston from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said while it was the only case the CDC was aware of, “I do think we are preparing for the possibility of more cases”.
The agency is in contact with its counterparts in the UK and Canada as part of the investigation, but McQuiston said no link had been established so far.
There are two types of monkeypox virus: the West African clade and Congo Basin (Central African) clade. The case-fatality ratio for the West African clade has been documented to be about 1 percent, and up to 10 percent for patients with the Congo Basin clade.
The WHO said that while smallpox vaccination has been effective against monkeypox, the end of mass vaccination programmes for smallpox meant people under the age of 40 or 50 no longer had that protection.
The UK has previously reported cases of monkeypox – all linked to travel to Nigeria – as has the US. An outbreak there in 2003 was traced to pet prairie dogs that had been housed with small animals imported from Ghana that were found to have the virus.
Monkeypox: Cases found and suspected in Portugal, Spain – CTV News
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