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Tuberculosis deaths rise for 1st time in years, due to COVID-19 – Nanaimo News Bulletin

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The number of people killed by tuberculosis has risen for the first time in more than a decade, largely because fewer people got tested and treated as resources were diverted to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said.

In its yearly report on TB released on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said 1.5 million people worldwide died of the bacterial disease last year, a slight rise from the 1.4 million deaths in 2019. Evidence of the ancient disease has been found in Egyptian mummies and it’s believed to have killed more people in history than any other infectious illness; TB routinely kills more people every year than AIDS and malaria.

The WHO also said far fewer people were newly diagnosed with TB in 2020; 5.8 million versus 7.1 million in 2019. The agency also estimates that about 4 million people suffer from TB but have yet to be diagnosed, a rise from 2.9 million people the previous year.

The disease is caused by a bacterium that often infects the lungs and is highly transmissible when those sickened by it cough or sneeze. About one quarter of the world’s population has a latent TB infection, meaning they carry the bacterium, but haven’t become ill and can’t transmit it. Those who harbor the bacterium have a 5 to 10% chance of eventually developing TB.

The disease is treatable if caught early, but drug-resistant versions have complicated treatment efforts and scientists are increasingly worried the bacterium will soon outpace available medicines. The countries with the highest numbers of TB cases include India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.

“We cannot accept that year after year, 1.5 million people die from the curable disease TB because they do not have access to the diagnostics and drugs that can save their lives,” said Stijn Deborggraev, diagnostics adviser for Doctors Without Borders’ Access campaign. In a statement, Deborggraev said access to testing was limited in many countries with high numbers of TB patients because they depend on tests made by the American company Cepheid, which he claimed was overcharging poorer countries for their tests.

He said Cepheid had received more than $250 million in public investment to develop its TB testing technology and has failed to make it accessible to those who need it most.

The company says they have made their test cartridges available to poorer countries “at low margin” and says they are “an active participant in the global fight against TB.”

The WHO noted that global investment into TB efforts had dropped and said global efforts to meet targets in reducing the numbers of people affected by the disease “appear increasingly out of reach.”

—The Associated Press

RELATED: Canadian researchers explore whether TB vaccine offers COVID-19 protection

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SHA says COVID-19 protocols prevented a flu season last year – moosejawtoday.com

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority says last year’s flu season was prevented thanks to masks, physical and social distancing, and increased hand washing.

Dr. Tania Diener, the COVID-19 Immunization Co-Chief at the province’s Emergency Operations Centre, says that, “We effectively didn’t have a flu season here last year.”

With restrictions slowly lifting from a population feeling the stress of isolation and public health measures, the province is uncertain about whether or not a flu season will return this winter.

Dr. Diener emphasized that, “Our hospitals are already under strain due to the number of cases of COVID-19, especially among those who are unvaccinated, due to the new Delta variant. A further influx of people sick with influenza would further strain those resources, so we’re asking everyone to get their flu vaccine again this year.”

SHA says they have enough evidence at this point to conclude that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine together is safe, and they encourage everyone able to do so to get both vaccines as soon as possible. 

This year’s flu vaccine is quadrivalent, meaning it protects against four different flu variants, an improvement from last year’s, which was trivalent. 
Information on this year’s flu vaccine can be found here.

Those looking to book their flu and/or COVID-19 vaccine can go to 4flu.ca.

SHA’s full press release can be found here.

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Province says flu shots prevents serious illness, deaths – My Comox Valley Now

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The province wants you to roll up your sleeves for another kind of vaccine as we head into flu season.

Health officials are hoping you will take their advice and get a flu shot, which is free for everyone in B.C. older than six months.

They say the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it has put on the health-care system continue to make influenza immunization a priority.

“All British Columbians should get vaccinated against influenza to protect themselves and their loved ones from serious illness, to reduce the strain on our hard-working health workers and to do our part to make sure the health system continues to be there for people who need it, where they need it and when they need it,” said health minister Adrian Dix. 

“I’m grateful to all of our health-care workers, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners and others for how they help people get immunized to protect themselves and those they care about.”

Seasonal influenza and other respiratory viruses will be in communities alongside COVID-19 this fall and winter.

The province says it “has the potential to escalate pressures already faced by the health-care system, particularly if the effects from COVID-19 and seasonal influenza occur are the same.”

That is why vaccines are now available and the province continues to increase vaccine accessibility through many locations and vaccine providers throughout B.C.

“This year, it’s especially important for people to get vaccinated against influenza. Last year’s low influenza rates means our immunity against influenza is lower than usual,” said provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. 

“Getting your influenza vaccine this year is more important than ever to protect yourself, your community and our overstretched health-care system.”

Pharmacies around B.C. have played a key role in providing easy access to influenza vaccines since 2009. 

This year, vaccines are available to pharmacies through a direct-distribution model. 

This means pharmacies are able to order them directly from distributors, which the province says makes “influenza immunization easier and more flexible for people in B.C.”

“Pharmacists played a key role in helping people get immunized against COVID-19 earlier this year and administered the majority of influenza doses last year,” said Geraldine Vance, CEO, B.C. Pharmacy Association. “We’re proud of the role we continue to play in protecting our health-care system and keeping everyone safe.”

Flu vaccines have been available already for certain high-risk groups. 

As they become available more broadly to the public throughout the province, you’re asked to check their health authority’s website or call their health-care provider or pharmacist to check for availability and to make an appointment.

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Children with mild COVID-19 may not develop antibodies; oral vaccine booster shows promise in monkey study

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The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that have yet to be certified by peer review.

Children with mild COVID-19 may lack  antibodies afterward

Children who contract a mild case of COVID-19 may not develop antibodies to the virus afterward, a study from Australia suggests. Researchers compared 57 children and 51 adults with mild COVID-19 or asymptomatic infections. Only 37% of children appeared to develop antibodies, compared to 76% of adults – even though viral loads were similar in the two groups, researchers found. Children’s bodies also did not appear to produce second-line cellular immune responses to the virus in the same way as adults, said study leader Paul Licciardi of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. The participants in the study were all infected in 2020, his team reported on Monday on medRxiv https://bit.ly/2XuernM ahead of peer review. “Whether this also happens for the current circulating variant (Delta) requires further investigation, as well as studies to understand why children are less likely to produce antibody responses following SARS-CoV-2 Infection,” Licciardi said. “Whether this means children are susceptible to re-infection is not known.”

Experimental oral COVID-19 vaccine shows promise in monkeys

A COVID-19 booster vaccine that can be given by mouth to people who already have antibodies from vaccination or prior infection has yielded promising results in monkeys and is likely to be tested soon in humans, according to the company developing it. The oral booster uses traditional vaccine technology in which a harmless carrier virus delivers coronavirus proteins into cells on the surface of the tongue, or lining of the cheeks and throat, stimulating production of antibodies that can block the virus before it gets a foothold in the body, said Dr. Stephen Russell, chief executive of Vyriad in Rochester, Minnesota, who led the study. “Not only would an oral COVID-19 vaccine be more convenient and acceptable… but it might also lead to better immunity because it is being administered to the site where the COVID-19 virus typically comes into the body,” he added. In monkeys at one week after vaccinations, antibody levels increased by nearly 100-fold, with no side effects, Russell said. A report of the study posted on Monday on bioRxiv https://bit.ly/3vwny3T ahead of peer review says Vyriad is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to plan human trials.

Plants may be useful in vaccine production

Plants could someday be used to produce COVID-19 vaccines, according to researchers who are developing a nasal spray vaccine. Vaccines work by delivering antigens, which are replicas of pieces of virus or bacteria that train the immune system to recognize the invader and defend against it. Vaccine antigens are typically produced in cells from mammals, but previous studies have suggested that producing them in tobacco-related Nicotiana benthamiana plants would be less expensive and safer. In the current lab study, posted on Monday on bioRxiv https://bit.ly/3AZwFv2 ahead of peer review, COVID-19 survivors’ antibodies recognized and responded to the coronavirus antigen produced in the plants “in the same way that they recognize a standard antigen produced in mammalian cells,” said study leader Allyson MacLean of the University of Ottawa. The intra-nasal vaccine is not meant to replace conventional (injected) vaccines, but rather to add another layer of protection by stimulating immune system protection in the airways, where the virus first attaches itself,” MacLean said. “We imagine the nasal-spray being used to top-up immune protection when traveling or going to events with large numbers of people.”

Click for a Reuters graphic https://tmsnrt.rs/3c7R3Bl on vaccines in development.

 

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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