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Toronto Public Health expands access to Meningococcal vaccination for eligible adult residents

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Starting today, Toronto Public Health (TPH) has expanded access to free Meningococcal vaccine for eligible Toronto residents between ages 20 and 36. Bookings for Meningococcal vaccines at the City of Toronto’s six fixed-site immunization clinics can now be made for appointments starting on Wednesday, October 12 on the TPH’s booking system.

Tomorrow, Friday, October 7, TPH is also hosting pop-up clinics at six secondary schools in the city where it will provide three school-based vaccines: Meningococcal, Human Papillomavirus and Hepatitis B. The clinics will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for students in grades 7 to 12. More information can be found on the City’s COVID-19: Pop-Up Immunization Clinics webpage.

In recent weeks, TPH identified serious cases of meningococcal C infection among young adults who were not vaccinated. These cases highlight the need to keep up-to-date with recommended vaccinations to protect against ongoing risk of infection. Meningococcal disease is a rare infectious disease that can cause severe illnesses that can be deadly.

City-run immunization clinics
TPH encourages Toronto residents in their twenties and thirties to check their vaccination records to confirm if they have received a Meningococcal vaccine, most commonly received in grade 7 or 8 as part of the school vaccination program. Eligible individuals who have not received a Meningococcal vaccine, including newcomers from countries that do not provide publicly-funded Meningococcal vaccination, should contact their healthcare provider or attend a TPH clinic to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

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Eligible residents between the ages of 20 to 36 can receive publicly-funded Meningococcal vaccine at all of the City’s six fixed-site immunization clinics by booking an appointment through TPH’s booking system. A health card is not required. ID is needed to prove your age. City-run immunization clinics are easily accessible by transit and offer free parking on-site.

Meningococcal disease
Meningococcal disease is a rare infectious disease caused by Neisseria meningitides bacteria. It can affect people of any age. The bacteria is carried in the throat or nose and is spread through close, direct contact between people sharing respiratory or throat secretions (saliva or spit). Common ways are kissing, sharing drinks and straws, or sharing cigarettes and vapes. Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact to spread the bacteria. In rare instances, the bacteria can cause severe illnesses that can be deadly.

People who are sick with meningococcal disease may show symptoms between 2 and 10 days after exposure. These symptoms may include the sudden onset of high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, drowsiness or confusion, nausea and vomiting, a rash (purplish) that spreads quickly, seizures, and/or irritability or fussiness. Severe cases can result in hallucination and coma and, if untreated, can lead to death.

Anyone who develops symptoms within 10 days of last seeing a person with meningococcal disease should see a healthcare provider right away. More information about Meningococcal disease can be found at the City’s Meningococcal Disease webpage.

Student vaccination
Students in grades 7 and 8 continue to be able to receive free Meningococcal vaccines (that prevent meningitis), Human Papillomavirus vaccines (that prevent cancers) and Hepatitis B vaccines (that prevent liver disease and cancer) to December 2022 at their schools through the #VAXToClass campaign.

Students in grades 9 to 12 who did not receive their Meningococcal, Human Papillomavirus and Hepatitis B vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic can also receive them at all of the City’s six fixed-site immunization clinics. A health card is not required. Appointments for these school-based vaccines can be booked through TPH’s booking system.

Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website.

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Children’s hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries

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A children’s hospital in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries and appointments starting Monday.

Health officials say it’s due to a high level of respiratory illness.

It is unclear how many surgeries and appointments at Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John‘s will be affected.

Residents who are not experiencing a medical emergency are being asked to avoid visiting an emergency department.

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Older adults amongst the most susceptible to RSV

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TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The risk of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV, typically flies under the radar when it comes to older adults.

With 10 times the amount of older adults being hospitalized for RSV than in previous years, understanding the risk is important for those who are more susceptible.

“RSV in older adults starts out with the same symptoms as younger adults. With common cold-like symptoms- nasal congestion, sniffles, low-grade temperature, sore throat, dry cough, tiredness. These symptoms will last for a few days,” Mary Derby, Nurse Manager at Pima County Health Department explained.

“However, an older adult or an adult with chronic medical conditions such as heart and lung disease- they can experience more serious symptoms, such as getting a high fever, dehydration, and real difficulty breathing.”

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Derby says if these symptoms lead to extreme chest pain, loss of color in the face, or struggle to breathe- seek medical attention immediately.

It is also important for those assisting an older adult to be aware of the risk imposed on those more susceptible.

“If you’re caring for older adults, please wash your hands frequently. Watch for your own symptoms and stay away if you’re experiencing symptoms. Consider wearing a mask to protect that older adult, because these older adults do need that protection… Take it seriously,” Derby emphasized.

Upward 6,000 to 10,000 older adults die each year from RSV.

As we make our way through the holidays, be sure to stay up to date with COVID-19 and Influenza vaccines, stay home if you are not feeling well, wash your hands often and for those at higher risk, wear a fitted mask around others.

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Breanna Isbell is a reporter for KGUN 9. She joined the KGUN 9 team in July of 2022 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in sports journalism from Arizona State University in May. Share your story ideas with Breanna by emailing breanna.isbell@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, or Twitter.

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AIDS day walk in North Battleford aims to `banish that stigma’

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 By Julia Peterson

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On World AIDS Day, advocates in the Battlefords gathered to raise awareness about how the virus affects people in their community, and how people can get help and treatment, if they need it.

“HIV is completely preventable in today’s society, with all the advances in medication,” said Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre’s HIV project coordinator, Cymric Leask. “But due to a lot of intersecting factors, especially due to COVID  in the past couple of years, our HIV numbers have skyrocketed.”

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In 2021, more than 200 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the province, even while testing, treatment and outreach were reduced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of new HIV infections in Canada, and has had the highest annual rate in the country for more than a decade.

The proportion of new HIV cases in rural areas is rising, too.

“Here up north, there are such large barriers to access to care,” said Leask. “We do have some great resources here in North Battleford  but it’s still very hard to access the proper care for HIV.”

For example, getting started on HIV medication requires a visit with a communicable disease doctor, but there is no communicable disease doctor based in the Battlefords. Instead, that doctor visits the community only once every four months.

Another barrier Leask has found is that many people still have an outdated  understanding of what HIV is, who is at risk and how treatment works.

“Especially here in rural areas, it’s stigmatized as something that only affects gay or bisexual men, men who have sex with men,” Leask said.

Today in Saskatchewan, men and women are diagnosed with HIV at almost equal rates, and two thirds of new cases are passed through injection drug use.

Treatments are much easier to manage than they used to be; some only involve taking one pill a day.

But the enduring stigma around HIV makes it harder for people to find community and support.

“People don’t talk about it,” said Jackie Kennedy, executive director of the Battlefords Indian and Metis Friendship Centre. “I think they’re afraid to. A lot of people don’t disclose that information (about their HIV status) because they are afraid to be judged.”

As more people continue to be diagnosed with HIV in Saskatchewan every year, groups and organizations in the Battlefords are working hard to make it easier for people to get testing, treatment, information and harm reduction supplies.

“We want to banish that stigma of how it used to be,” said Leask. “It’s not like that anymore.”

  Julia Peterson is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE STARPHOENIX

The LJI program is federally funded.

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