A new made-in-B.C. test will soon be available for children and youth to help make COVID-19 testing easier and more comfortable, the province’s top doctor has announced.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters Thursday (Sept. 18) that B.C. will be one of the first places in the world to implement a new saline gargle test to diagnose the novel coronavirus.
“Unlike the [nasal] swab, this is a new saline gargle where you put a little bit of saline water, that is sterile water, in your mouth, you swish it around and spit it into a little tube,” she explained.
“This test is kind of cool and something we’ve had in the works for a while. This new method is more comfortable, particularly for our younger children.”
Henry said the new alternative will soon be made available to health officials across the province, noting the test has some key benefits ahead of influenza season: it is more efficient and can be done without a doctor or nurse involved.
Currently, the province has been using a nasal swab test – the gold standard for confirming if someone has COVID-19 – which involves putting a six-inch long Q-tip into the cavity between the nose and mouth for 15 seconds and then rotating it several times. A swab is repeated on the other side of the nose.
For now, the test will be available for those aged four to 18.
The less-intrusive swab comes as B.C. sees an ongoing rise in daily COVID-19 cases. There have been a total 7,663 confirmed cases in B.C. since January.
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News Releases | COVID-19 Bulletin #234 – news.gov.mb.ca
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Scientists find signs of waning antibody immunity to COVID-19 over time in England – CBC.ca
Antibodies against the novel coronavirus declined rapidly in the population in England during the summer, according to a preprint posted on Tuesday, suggesting protection after infection may not be long-lasting and raising the prospect of waning immunity in the community.
Scientists at Imperial College London have tracked antibody levels in the population in England following the first wave of COVID-19 infections in March and April.
Their study found that antibody prevalence fell by a quarter, from six per cent of the population around the end of June to just 4.4 per cent in September. That raises the prospect of decreasing population immunity ahead of a second wave of infections in recent weeks that has forced local lockdowns and restrictions.
Although immunity to the novel coronavirus is a complex and murky area, and may be assisted by T cells as well as B cells, which can stimulate the quick production of antibodies following re-exposure to the virus, the researchers said the experience of other coronaviruses suggested immunity might not be enduring.
“We can see the antibodies and we can see them declining and we know that antibodies on their own are quite protective,” Wendy Barclay, head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, told reporters.
“On the balance of evidence I would say, with what we know for other coronaviruses, it would look as if immunity declines away at the same rate as antibodies decline away, and that this is an indication of waning immunity at the population level.”
Those for whom COVID-19 was confirmed with a gold standard PCR test had a less pronounced decline in antibodies, compared to people who had been asymptomatic and unaware of their original infection.
There was no change in the levels of antibodies seen in health-care workers, possibly due to repeated exposure to the virus.
Vaccine may be more protective
The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed to flag flaws, backs up findings from similar surveys in Germany. The German researchers found the vast majority of people didn’t have COVID-19 antibodies, even in hotspots for the disease, and that antibodies might fade in those who do.
WATCH | The limits of pursuing herd immunity:
World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said that uncertainty over how long immunity would last, and the fact that most people had never had antibodies against the coronavirus in the first place, showed the need to break transmission chains.
“Acquiring this collective immunity just by letting the virus run through the population is not really an option,” he told a UN briefing in Geneva.
Imperial’s study was based on a survey of 365,000 randomly selected adults.
The rapid waning of antibodies did not necessarily have implications for the efficacy of vaccine candidates currently in clinical trials, Imperial’s Barclay said.
“A good vaccine may well be better than natural immunity,” she said.
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday – Lacombe Express – Lacombe Express
Alberta confirmed 1,440 COVID-19 cases from over the weekend and seven additional deaths.
The cases are: 364 on Friday, 572 on Saturday and 504 on Sunday. The Saturday case number is another record for the province.
That’s identifying, on average, 480 COVID-19 cases over the weekend, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health.
She said one of the challenges is to find a balance between minimizing the risk of COVID-19 and minimizing the risk of harms of restrictions.
“This requires us to keep the spread of COVID-19 manageable. We’ve now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we’ve been seeking,” said Hinshaw.
The government imposed new temporary mandatory limits Monday – of 15 people – at most social gatherings for the City of Calgary and Edmonton.
In total, 118 people in Alberta are in hospitals with 16 in intensive care.
The total number of active cases in the province sat at 4,477 Monday afternoon up 826 from Friday’s 3,651.
The number of active cases in the central zone jumped to 162 from Friday’s 126. There are three people in hospital in the local zone with none in intensive care.
To date, there have been 953 COVID-19 cases confirmed in the local zone with 783 recoveries.
The deaths were in Edmonton and Calgary zones. The virus-death toll is at 307.
The City of Red Deer’s active cases sits at 39 up from Friday’s 31.
A letter was sent Monday to families alerting them of a positive case of the virus at Gateway Christian School in Red Deer.
On Monday, Red Deer’s Hunting Hills High School was on province’s watch list.
Red Deer County had 10 active cases Monday afternoon, two in Town of Sylvan Lake, six in Lacombe County, one in the City of Lacombe, 45 in Ponoka County, two in County of Wetaskiwin, and 11 in City of Wetaskiwin.
There were two active cases in the Town of Olds, three in Clearwater County, five in Kneehill County, four in Camrose County, six in City of Camrose and one in Town of Drumheller.
There are no active cases in Mountain View County, Starland County and County of Stettler.
One of the challenges of the increasing active case numbers is it creates pressure on COVID-19 response including contact-tracing, said Hinshaw.
She said Alberta is also challenged between polarizing views on the virus: on one hand “we have to drive to zero cases” and on another “COVID is a mild illness for most so we should let it spread freely and pursue herd immunity.”
“COVID is a novel disease that is not just the flu,” Hinshaw said. “It has the ability to overwhelm our health system and weaken essential services if we let it do so.”
She encouraged Albertans to maintain respectful dialogue and to not let COVID-19 divide the province.
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