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Variant first detected in Brazil concerning in Canada: here’s what we know about P.1 – Sylvan Lake News

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From an outbreak on a Canadian NHL team to clusters of cases detected in Alberta, parts of Canada have been seeing skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers that are possibly linked to variants of concern over the last several weeks.

While most variant cases in the country have stemmed from the B.1.1.7 variety first detected in the United Kingdom, troubling outbreaks of the P.1 variant, which was first identified in Brazil, are starting to emerge with more frequency.

As of April 1, there have been 483 cases of the P.1 variant across the country, with the majority of them — 379 — in B.C., Health Canada says. There have been 10,856 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant and 313 of the variant first detected in South Africa.

Public Health Ontario’s latest epidemiological report shows a total of 103 P.1 cases in the province, including one new case identified over the weekend.

Maria Sundaram, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto, says the growing number of variant cases is concerning. And while P.1 has gained more prevalence in the west recently, that’s not to say the rest of the country shouldn’t be on guard.

“All of the identified variants of concern seem to have (qualities) that are very bad news for us in terms of pandemic control,” she said.

“The numbers are a little bit higher in B.C., but … things can turn on a dime.”

READ MORE: Canada’s total COVID-19 case count surpasses one million

Here’s what we know about the P1 variant:

WHAT IS IT, AND HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM OTHER VARIANTS OF CONCERN?

The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the P.1 variant has 17 unique mutations, including three on the part of the spike protein that binds to cells when we become infected.

Those mutations, on what’s called the spike protein’s “receptor binding domain,” are causing the most concern, says infectious disease doctor Ilan Schwartz.

Schwartz, a researcher at the University of Alberta, says the mutations allow the virus to bind more efficiently to cells when it enters the body, and may also interfere with the ability of antibodies — produced from prior infection or from vaccines — to recognize the variant form.

HOW MUCH MORE TRANSMISSIBLE IS IT?

Experts say the variants first detected in the U.K. and South Africa are roughly 50 per cent more transmissible than the earlier form of the virus, which is known as the “wild type.” But they still aren’t sure how contagious P.1 is compared to the others.

The data on P.1 is still new, Sundaram says, but what’s more concerning is the idea that this variant could reinfect those who have already had COVID-19.

A study from Manaus, the largest city in Brazil’s Amazon region, found that the P.1 variant was identified in 42 per cent of cases sequenced there from late December, even though approximately 75 per cent of the region’s population had previously been infected.

“We’re talking about people who should have been protected by their own immune system with a response from the actual pathogen itself,” Sundaram said.

The latest weekly global epidemiological report from the World Health Organization (WHO) listed Brazil as the biggest hot spot for new cases with 533,024 for the week ending March 28. The country, which has the P.1 variant as the dominant strain, reported 508,000 cases the week before.

WHERE IS THE VARIANT CIRCULATING IN CANADA?

The P.1 variant has been detected across Canada, but the most recent clusters have appeared out west in B.C. and Alberta.

Alberta’s chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Twitter Monday that an outbreak involving P.1 cases in the province appears to be linked to a large employer with multiple sites across Western Canada.

Hinshaw said three of the 26 cases linked to those sites are confirmed to be the P.1 variant, but she added that number is likely to increase as more results come in.

A separate P.1 case was identified in a five-case outbreak at a Calgary zone workplace, Hinshaw said.

In B.C., meanwhile, top doctor Bonnie Henry said last week a large cluster of P.1 cases in the Whistler region had been contained. Though a small number had spread beyond Whistler, Henry said those cases were being watched closely.

An outbreak among the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks has also reportedly involved the P.1 variant, though the team and league have not confirmed that.

Sixteen of the Canucks’ 22 players were on the NHL’s COVID protocol list as of Monday afternoon.

Not all players on that list have necessarily tested positive. The list also includes players who must self-isolate after being a close contact with a confirmed case or for travel reasons.

DOES THE VARIANT CAUSE MORE SEVERE DISEASE?

Schwartz says it’s likely that P.1 may result in more serious disease, and that younger people could be more susceptible to a severe outcome with that variant compared to the “wild type” of the virus Canada has mostly been dealing with up until now.

He adds, however, that data on P.1 is “quite preliminary” compared to B.1.1.7, which is also showing an increased chance of more severe infections.

“We’ve been aware of this variant for a shorter amount of time, and because the data that’s been generated hasn’t been quite as robust, we still don’t know for sure,” he said. “But this is certainly our concern.

“In a lot of ways, (P.1) sort of has a full house of weaponry.”

WHAT IMPLICATIONS DOES THIS VARIANT HAVE FOR THE VACCINES?

Sundaram says research suggests the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna lose some effectiveness against the P.1 variant, though that’s not to say they won’t work at all.

She noted those results were based on lab studies.

But the higher the prevalence of variant cases, the more worried she becomes.

“When we start to see this uptick, and we look at this concurrent potential reduction in vaccine protectiveness … it really becomes a very concerning scenario,” she said. “We need more information to identify exactly to what per cent vaccine efficacy (drops) in real-world scenarios, but it seems quite likely that it will.”

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press

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Man assaulted nurse over vaccinating his wife: Quebec cops – Toronto Sun

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The man accused the nurse of having “vaccinated his wife without his consent” before repeatedly punching the woman in the face, police said.

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Sherbrooke police have turned to the public to help track down a man who assaulted a nurse Monday at a local pharmacy.

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Police say a man showed up at the office of a nurse assigned to give vaccinations at a pharmacy on 12th Ave. N.

“He was angry and aggressive,” said police spokesperson Martin Carrier.

The man accused the nurse of having “vaccinated his wife without his consent” before repeatedly punching the woman in the face and leaving, police said, adding that the nurse was taken to hospital to treat “serious” injuries to her face.

The man being sought is 30 to 45 years old, of medium build and has a dark complexion. He has short dark hair, dark eyes and “big eyebrows.”

The man spoke French and was wearing a dark sweater and jeans. He wore earrings and had a hand tattooed with what resembled the image of a cross.

Police are urging anyone with any information on the case to call them at 1-800-771-1800.

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B.C. reports 759 new COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths, 1 death in Island Health – CHEK

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British Columbia health officials on Wednesday reported 759 new COVID-19 cases — including 79 in Island Health — and 10 new deaths since their last update on Sept. 21.

One of the deaths was in Island Health, the province says.

The number of confirmed cases in B.C. is now at 180,937 while the death toll climbs to 1,910.

There are currently 5,458 active cases in the province, 324 people in hospital — 157 of whom are in intensive care. The provincial government says there are 636 active cases in the Island Health region.

Of the new cases identified, 79 were in Island Health, 233 were in Interior Health, 214 were in Fraser Health, 129 were in Northern Health, 101 were in Vancouver Coastal Health and three were people who normally reside outside of the country.

A total of 173,215 people in B.C. have recovered from COVID-19 while 7,739,828 doses of vaccine have been administered province-wide.

Today’s data was released as a statement to the media.

Island Health

According to the latest update on Island Health’s dashboard shows that there are 563 active cases — 44 in North Island, 180 in Central Island, and 339 in South Island — on Vancouver Island.

Thirty-five people in the region are currently in hospital with COVID-19, 20 of whom are in critical care.

Over the past 24 hours, there were 188 recoveries, 1,358 new tests for COVID-19 performed, and 2,370 doses of vaccine administered in the region. Of those doses, 37 were AstraZeneca, 1,409 were Moderna and 924 doses were Pfizer.

A total of 1,289,871 vaccine doses — 619,306 of those are second doses — have now been administered on Vancouver Island. This includes 33,465 doses of AstraZeneca, 345,767 doses of Moderna and 910,639 doses of Pfizer.

Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been 8,020 cases reported, 59 deaths, 355 total hospitalizations, and 7,254 recoveries recorded on Vancouver Island.

Cases and deaths continue to climb this month

With Wednesday’s announcement of 79 new cases and yet another death in Island Health, the region has now recorded 11 deaths and seen a 22 per cent increase in new cases since the beginning of September.

Since Sept. 1, total hospitalizations on the Island have risen 23 per cent while the total number of recoveries has increased by 22 per cent.

When it comes to active cases, the data isn’t as clear due to major discrepancies between the two main reporting agencies, Island Health and the BCCDC.

Island Health’s data shows that active cases in the region have increased by 31 per cent since the beginning of the month, while the BCCDC’s data shows that active cases have only increased by 18 per cent during the same period.

However, Island Health is the only agency to provide daily updates on active cases with a breakdown by region and based on their latest data update, active cases in the South Island are the highest they have ever been.

More concerning, perhaps, is that active cases on the South Island have increased 113 per cent since Sept. 8. Active cases in Central Island have only managed to climb by 10 per cent since Sept. 8 and on the brighter side, active cases in the North Island have decreased by 37 per cent during the same period.

The vaccine card effect on Vancouver Island

Time — and likely one’s perspective — will only tell whether the B.C. vaccine card system proves to be effective here on the Island. But if the provincial government’s goal was strictly to get more shots in people’s arms for the first time, then it appears to be working to a degree.

On Aug. 23, which was the day Premier John Horgan announced the vaccine card system, a total of 640,426 first doses had been administered on Vancouver Island.

That number had climbed to 649,293 — slightly more than 1 per cent — by Sept. 1, less than two weeks before the B.C. vaccine card system was to come into effect.

But by Sept. 22, more than a week after the B.C. vaccine card system was implemented, that figure had increased to 670,565 first doses, a five per cent increase since Aug. 23.

That may not seem like a lot, but that does mean 30,139 people in the region opted to get the first dose of vaccine in less than a month.

However, it is worth pointing out that the total number of vaccine doses — first and second doses combined — administered on Vancouver Island has risen by 3.3 per cent since Sept. 1 and just 1.5 per cent since Sept. 13, the day the B.C. vaccine card coming into force.

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New Zealand’s Ardern says lockdowns can end with high vaccine uptake

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday the country should aim for a 90%-plus rate of inoculation, and could drop strict coronavirus lockdown measures once enough people were vaccinated.

New Zealand eliminated COVID-19 last year and remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in August led to a nationwide lockdown.

With its biggest city Auckland still in lockdown and new cases being reported every day, Ardern said vaccinations will replace lockdowns as the main tool against the virus, allowing authorities to isolate only those who are infected.

“If that rate (of vaccinations) is high enough then we will be able to move away from lockdowns as a tool,” she said.

The highest possible vaccine rates will give the most freedoms, Ardern said, adding that the country should be aiming for a 90% plus rate of vaccination.

After a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, some 40% of adult New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and about 75% have had at least one dose.

Authorities reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 1,123.

The Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield warned earlier this week that New Zealand may not get to zero COVID cases again.

 

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin)

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