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The Coronavirus in Canada: Everything we know

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Health officials in Canada continue to be on high alert, as more cases of the Wuhan coronavirus are investigated across the country from as far east as Montreal, to as far west as Vancouver.

Here’s how the situation is currently unfolding across the country, as well as internationally.

Quebec

Three people are being investigated in the province for potential cases of the coronavirus, according to Quebec’s health and social services ministry.

Last Thursday, five potential cases of the virus were ruled out by Quebec authorities.

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Quebec’s public health board reiterates that “no confirmed cases of the new 2019 coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been reported in Quebec,” but monitoring a potential outbreak remains critical.

The provincial health board wishes to reassure the population that even as the outbreak is “evolving rapidly,” all necessary actions have been taken to diagnose cases that could arise in Quebec.daily

Ontario

On Saturday, the provincial government confirmed its first “presumptive case” of coronavirus at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital.

According to the province, on Thursday, January 23, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre admitted a patient brought in by paramedics who had fever and respiratory symptoms.

They say the patient, a man in his 50s, was screened and recent travel history to Wuhan, China, was confirmed and the patient was immediately put under isolation.

On Monday morning, the Government of Ontario confirmed that the wife of the province’s first case of the Wuhan novel coronavirus had tested positive for a presumptive version of the virus.

They also confirmed that since arriving in Toronto with her husband, she has been in self-isolation.

Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, said the new second case is less severe, and the new patient did not need the same level of acute care as her husband.

She is “recovering and is currently doing well” at home, according to Toronto Public Health.

The husband also continues to recover in hospital. Both the man and woman are reportedly in their mid-50s.

The province said that there are currently 19 cases under investigation, and that they have ruled out 16 patients at this time.

Alberta

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer said on Tuesday that the risk to Albertans when it comes to coronavirus is considered to be low, with zero confirmed or probable cases in the province.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta, provided an update on Alberta’s response to the novel coronavirus in a press conference Tuesday, saying that the province is working to ensure the health systems are prepared.

“While it is normal to be worried about new threats to our health, the risk to Albertans is still considered to be low,” said Hinshaw. “There are no cases of the novel coronavirus in Alberta at this time.”

British Columbia

The first presumptive case of coronavirus was confirmed in BC on Tuesday.

“We are here to let you know that late yesterday, we had our first case confirmed of a person here in BC,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, in a joint statement with Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, this morning.

The man is in his 40s and regularly travels to China for work. He was in Wuhan last week on a work trip.

He is a resident of the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which comprises Vancouver, Richmond, North and West Vancouver, along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, Sunshine Coast, and BC’s Central Coast.

“On Sunday, January 26, he followed public health messaging, contacted a primary health-care provider to notify them that he had travelled to Wuhan City, was experiencing symptoms and would be coming for assessment and care,” said Henry.

“Following established protocols, the primary-care provider notified the Vancouver Coastal Health medical health officer and administered the diagnostic test,” said Henry. “Last night the test came back positive. Public health officials are in regular contact with the man and he is in isolation at his home.”

On its website, the BCCDC says the risk to British Columbians “is considered low” but is being monitored closely.

Airlines

Concerns in the travel industry surrounding coronavirus continue to grow as multiple airlines have issued offerings for fee waivers allowing passengers more time to change their flights to China.

American Airlines has implemented a “special exception policy to (its) travel partners that is now available for mutual customers due to the possible effect from the Coronavirus.”

The change fee waiver applies for travel dates been January 24 to March 31, 2020, meaning that individuals who were scheduled to fly between these days to Beijing or Shanghai now have the option to change flights without having to pay a fee to do so.

Delta implemented a similar policy between January 24 to February 29, 2020, for flights to Beijing and Shanghai, with the waiver permitting customers the flexibility to make a “one-time change” to their travel itinerary without having to pay a change fee.

“Travellers with Wuhan in their journey are being screened by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) upon arrival to New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago-O’Hare, and Los Angeles, in addition to screenings in China. Other US airports are also reportedly screening passengers who have Wuhan as part of their travel journey,” the airline explained in a statement on their website.

United Airlines is also offering refunds to travellers venturing to Wuhan if they purchased their ticket by January 21, and are expected to travel there from now until March 29, 2020.

Additionally, United is allowing for additional flexibility for those journeying to other destinations within China.

The airline also explained that “customers travelling to and from China will need to complete additional health screenings upon arrival and departure.”

The CDC issued a level 3 travel advisory on Monday, its highest level, recommending travellers avoid nonessential travel to China.

It’s not just airlines in the US that are making these changes, however.

Air Canada has also extended a “goodwill policy” relating to coronavirus and flights journeying to Beijing and Shanghai.

“If you are scheduled to travel during the affected period, you can retrieve your booking and change your flight free of charge, subject to availability in the cabin you originally purchased. Otherwise, any fare difference will apply,” the airline stated on their website on Tuesday.

Customers travelling to, from, or through Wuhan also have the option of cancelling their flight for a full refund.

Global risk

As of January 27, 2020, there have been 2,888 globally confirmed cases (2,846 of these within regions of China). There have also been 81 deaths, which have all occurred within regions of China.

Cases of the virus were first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. BCCDC says illnesses associated with the new coronavirus are “similar to several respiratory illnesses and include fever, dry cough, sore throat and headache.”

Global Affairs Canada has also increased its travel risk advisory to parts of China.

According to Global Affairs, Canadians should also avoid all travel to Hubei, including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, and Ezhou, “due to the imposition of heavy travel restrictions in order to limit the spread of a novel coronavirus.”

The federal government said that on January 22, Chinese authorities asked the public to avoid all non-essential travel to and from the city of Wuhan, Hubei, “in the hopes of containing a novel coronavirus.”

François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the government is in contact with and providing assistance to Canadians currently on the ground.

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At least five B.C. children died from influenza last month, as mortalities spike

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At least five children died last month in British Columbia from influenza as a rise of early season respiratory illnesses added strain to the beleaguered healthcare system.

The figure marks a departure from the average of two to three annual flu deaths among children in the province between 2015 and 2019, data from the BC Coroners Service shows.

“Public health is monitoring the situation closely and is reminding people of the steps they can take to protect themselves, their children and their loved ones against the flu,” the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said in a statement.

“It is important to know that death associated with influenza in previously healthy children continues to be rare.”

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The centre said it is aware of a sixth reported flu death among children and youth under 19, but it was not immediately clear why the sixth wasn’t included in the coroners’ figures.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the children who died included one who was younger than five years old, three who were between five and nine, and two adolescents who were between 15 and 19.

“Early findings indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness, which can be a complication of influenza,” Henry said in a statement Thursday.

The deaths in British Columbia suggest figures could tick up across the country given the common challenges facing health systems this respiratory season. Alberta has also recorded the deaths of two children with influenza so far this season.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of five to six kids died per flu season across Canada, data collected from 12 hospitals across the country shows.

The national data was collected between 2010 and 2019 by IMPACT, a national surveillance network administered by the Canadian Paediatric Association. It was included in a research paper published in March in “The Lancet Regional Health — Americas” journal that also found no deaths from the flu among children in either 2020 or 2021.

No one from either IMPACT or the B.C. Centre for Disease Control was immediately available for an interview.

On Monday, Henry said that after two years of low flu rates, mostly due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the province is seeing a “dramatic increase” in illness and it arrived sooner than normal.

She urged parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu.

On Thursday, British Columbia’s Health Ministry announced a “blitz” of walk-in flu clinics that will open across the province Friday through Sunday. Flu vaccines are free to all kids aged six months and older in B.C.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said getting the shot is particularly important for those at risk of severe outcomes, including those with chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, kidney or liver disorders and diseases, those with conditions that cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, those who need to take Aspirin for long periods of time and those who are very obese.

The BC Coroners Service said its data is preliminary and subject to change while investigations are completed.

The cases include those where influenza was identified as an immediate, pre-existing or underlying cause of death, or as a significant condition.

Henry said updates on pediatric influenza-related deaths will be posted weekly as part of the respiratory surveillance summaries on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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Cough and cold medication shortage to end next year, pharmacists association says – The Daily Press

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Children’s Tylenol returning slowly to retail outlets in town

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Parents with sick kids might be able to take a break from crushing adult Tylenol and mixing it with apple sauce if they hurry quickly to a local pharmacy.

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Children’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) in liquid form began arriving at retail outlets in late November, but in such limited quantities that pharmacists are keeping them behind the counter and limiting them to one bottle per customer.

A Shopper’s Drug Mart pharmacist The Daily Press spoke with on Tuesday wouldn’t say how much they’d received but advised to hurry while quantities last. A Rexall pharmacist is only selling children’s Tylenol to parents with sick kids, not to those just preparing for a rainy day.

Adam Chappell, owner and pharmacist at Parma Right in The 101 Mall, told The Daily Press he was expecting nine retail-sized bottles of children’s Tylenol last Wednesday, which he also planned to keep behind the counter and limit to one bottle per customer.

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He predicts that more will become available, but that there will be extended shortages in the short term. Pharmacies are being allocated small amounts by the manufacturers, to spread out supply.

The shortage makes it difficult for parents to control fevers in their children, leading to more doctor visits, he said.

“We had more public health measures in place with COVID, so we had 1½ to two years where we really didn’t see much influenza or common cold,” said Chappell, whose independent pharmacy opened in November.

“So now we’re seeing everything all at once because we’re now socializing more. It’s that time of year, so we’re starting to see more influenza, cough and colds and COVID is still circulating. I think it’s a combination of higher use and some lingering logistical issues.”

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Shelves sit half empty in the adult cough and cold section at the Shopper’s Drug Mart at 227 Algonquin Blvd. E. on Tuesday. The shortage is expected to end between January and March of 2023, said Jen Belcher with the Pharmacists Association of Ontario. The timing would coincide with the end of the cold and flu season.NICOLE STOFFMAN/The Daily Press
Shelves sit half empty in the adult cough and cold section at the Shopper’s Drug Mart at 227 Algonquin Blvd. E. on Tuesday. The shortage is expected to end between January and March of 2023, said Jen Belcher with the Pharmacists Association of Ontario. The timing would coincide with the end of the cold and flu season.NICOLE STOFFMAN/The Daily Press jpg, TD

A children’s drug shortage began in the spring and worsened in the summer when an early onset of flu and respiratory syncytial virus was made worse by COVID-19, which presents as a cold. Parents began stocking up.

When local manufacturers could not keep up with demand, Health Canada arranged to import supply from the United States and Australia, whose first shipment in early November went straight to hospitals, in part because the labels were not bilingual, Postmedia reported.

Health Canada has authorized 500,000 bottles of imported children’s acetaminophen for retail to arrive in December, and domestic supply is starting to recover, Jen Belcher with the Ontario Pharmacists Association told The Daily Press in a telephone interview.

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“The demand really hasn’t abated, and manufacturing really hasn’t been able to keep up from a straight capacity standpoint, rather than a supply interruption with a lack of ingredients,” she said, when asked to respond to a claim by the German pharmacist’s association.

That organization asserts pandemic lockdowns in China are blocking exports of the raw ingredients used for medications, Postmedia reported Nov. 16.

If lockdowns in China continue, however, she conceded it could interrupt the ingredient supply in the long-term.  There is also a global reliance on India for the raw ingredients used in over-the-counter medication.

Canadian manufacturers can tap various international suppliers if approved by Health Canada, Belcher said.

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Children’s Advil (ibuprofen), an anti-inflammatory, continues to be in short supply in pharmacies, but available in hospital. Neither Belcher nor Chappell has heard reports of Health Canada planning to import it for retail outlets.

Adult Tylenol and Advil remain plentiful.

Chappell recommends that parents speak to their pharmacist to determine a dosage of adult pills based on the child’s weight and symptoms. They can be crushed and added to yogurt, apple sauce or chocolate syrup.

If parents can wait a few days for the package to arrive, they can order a supply for their child from a compounding pharmacist, who is qualified to make custom medications including liquid formulations. There are several compounding pharmacists in Sudbury, but none in Timmins.

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Adults in Timmins who have come down with a cold or flu lately may also have been surprised to see empty shelves in the adult cough and cold section of their local pharmacy.

“When it comes to cough and cold medication for both adults and children, we’re not seeing an imported supply of those. Those are short and have been for quite some time due to this high level of demand, small amounts have been trickling through the supply chain but it hasn’t been enough to keep up with demand,” said Belcher.

She expects the adult cough and cold medication shortage to end sometime between January and March, 2023, just in time for the end of flu season.

A quick check of the adult cough and cold section of four downtown pharmacies on Tuesday showed partially empty shelves, but there was still a variety of medication to choose from.

Belcher said pharmacists have lots of experience finding alternatives for patients, if necessary.

“While the over-the-counter medications in short supply are the most visible representation of the challenges to our supply chain, pharmacy teams have been managing very high levels of drug shortages, some critical, where there are really few or no alternative options,” she said, adding that up to 20 per cent of the team’s day is spent managing shortages.

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Study explores the risk of new-onset diabetes mellitus following SARS-CoV-2 infections

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In a recent study posted to the medRxiv* preprint server, researchers evaluated individuals who had severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections and were diagnosed with diabetes mellitus within six months of the onset of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to understand the temporal relationship between SARS-CoV-2 infections and diabetes mellitus.

Study: Are fewer cases of diabetes mellitus diagnosed in the months after SARS-CoV-2 infection? Image Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Background

Recent research indicates a potential increase in the new-onset diabetes mellitus diagnoses after SARS-CoV-2 infections. While the causative mechanisms are not clearly understood, various hypotheses suggest the roles of stress-induced hyperglycemia during SARS-CoV-2 infections, changes in the innate immune system, virus-induced damage or changes to the beta cells or vasculature of the pancreas, as well as the side effects of the treatment in the increased incidence of diabetes mellitus diagnoses.

Furthermore, the drastic lifestyle changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have decreased physical activity and increased obesity. The stress induced by the pandemic has also increased endogenous cortisol levels, a known risk factor for diabetes mellitus. Examining the temporal relationship between SARS-CoV-2 infections and new-onset cases of diabetes mellitus will help develop effective screening and therapeutic strategies.

About the study

In the present study, the team conducted a nationwide analysis using electronic health records aggregated in the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) database in the United States (U.S.). They analyzed all individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infections and type 2 diabetes mellitus between March 2020 and February 2022. Data from the health records for the six months preceding and following the SARS-CoV-2 infections were included to avoid selection and ascertainment bias.

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SARS-CoV-2 infections were confirmed based on the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) code, or laboratory test results. New-onset diabetes mellitus cases were defined as those that did not have an ICD code for diabetes mellitus in their electronic health records before September 2019. The incidence of diabetes mellitus was then analyzed concerning SARS-CoV-2 infections.

Results

The results reported a sharp increase in new-onset diabetes mellitus diagnoses in the 30 days following SARS-CoV-2 infections, with the incidence of new diagnoses decreasing in the post-acute stage up to approximately a year after the infection. Surprisingly, the number of new-onset diabetes mellitus cases in the months following SARS-CoV-2 infections is lower than in the months preceding the infection.

The authors believe that the increase in healthcare interactions brought about due to the COVID-19 pandemic might explain the notable increase in diabetes mellitus diagnoses in the time surrounding SARS-CoV-2 infections. New patients might have been tested for hemoglobin A1C or glucose levels during their first interaction with the healthcare system, the results of which might have then been used to diagnose diabetes mellitus.

Additionally, SARS-CoV-2 infection-induced physiological stress could have triggered diabetes mellitus in high-risk individuals who might have developed the disease later in life without COVID-19.

According to the authors, the overall risk of developing diabetes mellitus has increased, irrespective of SARS-CoV-2 infections, due to the drastic decrease in physical activity, weight gain, and the stress induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, a longer follow-up period might report an increased incidence in new-onset diabetes mellitus cases, with the SARS-CoV-2 infection precipitating disease development in individuals who might not have otherwise developed diabetes.

Conclusions

To summarize, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional, nationwide analysis of individuals in the U.S. to understand the temporal relationship between diagnoses of new-onset diabetes mellitus and SARS-CoV-2 infections. The results reported a spike in diabetes mellitus diagnoses in the one month following SARS-CoV-2 infections, followed by a marked decrease in the number of diagnoses for up to a year after the infection.

The authors believe that the sudden increase in diabetes diagnoses could be due to increased healthcare interactions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new-onset diabetes mellitus cases could also be a reaction to the physiological stress induced by SARS-CoV-2 infections.

Furthermore, the drastic lifestyle changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic might be responsible for the high incidence of diabetes mellitus, irrespective of SARS-CoV-2 infections. However, extensive research is required to understand the epidemiology and mechanisms connecting SARS-CoV-2 infections with new-onset diabetes mellitus.

*Important notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:

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