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We sent your unanswered coronavirus questions to an expert — and we have answers – Global News

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The word coronavirus has been on the lips of people all over the world ever since reports of this virus spreading all over China filled the news.

To date, the virus has killed more than 100 people, infected at least 4,500 people in other countries and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Many people have turned to social media in the hopes of getting answers to their coronavirus-related questions.

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We gathered some of those top-asked questions and spoke with an expert with the hopes of providing some answers.

Susy Hota is an infectious disease physician and medical director of infection prevention and control at the University Health Network in Toronto.

What is the origin of the coronavirus? 

Asked by: @r_jules_k

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The origin of the coronavirus is not entirely known yet. It is believed to have originated from a wet market in Wuhan, China, and the belief is that the virus may have jumped from the animals to humans.

Wet markets are places animals both dead and alive are sold in close capacity.

“Coronaviruses often do originate from animals, and bats are known carriers of the virus,” Hota said. Efforts are still being made to pinpoint the exact origin, but experts say that this will take some time.”

Are you wondering what a wet market is? READ MORE

How is it transmitted? If I handle something that’s been handled by an infected person, can I catch it?

Asked by: @ColleenAllan6

The coronavirus is transmitted just like any other respiratory virus, and this is through droplet transmission.

“When you are sick with a viral infection, then usually the virus is present in secretions in the nose, mouth and lungs, so when you sneeze, large droplets of liquid will be released into the air, and this is how the virus is transmitted,” Hota said.

Because these drops tend to be heavier, they do not travel farther than two metres. The virus can also be contracted if you touch a surface that has been contaminated, then touch your face or eyes.

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What is the correct term for the coronavirus? 

Asked by: @Jane_Who

“This virus has a bit of an identity crisis,” Hota said.

The coronavirus refers to a whole family of viruses that can cause respiratory symptoms in both animals and humans. To date, there are seven known strains of coronavirus that can infect humans.

“Two of them can cause more serious disease and these are the SARS and MERS virus,” Hota said. The others cause symptoms more commonly associated with the common cold.

These viruses do affect Canadians every year during cold season. “This virus needs its own name, and that is being worked on,” Hota said.






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How is coronavirus being treated without a cure?


How is coronavirus being treated without a cure?

What measures are being taken by Canadian health authorities to deal with this threat to Canadians?

Asked by: @Norman Rockwell

Public Health is monitoring the situation very closely, and their main approach is following up on people who are sick with this type of virus.

To date, there are two people in Canada who are known to have it, so the organization is working on reaching out to people the infected carriers may have come into contact with.

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“It also comes down to fairly basic stuff like hand washing frequently, avoid touching surfaces in public areas, and avoid touching your face,” Hota said.

Hota also recommends staying home if you feel unwell and coughing into your sleeve.

Health authorities are also looking at implementing travel bans to areas where outbreaks are active.


READ MORE:
Health officials urge Canadians to get coronavirus information from credible sources

Should travel be avoided?

Asked by: @SarahChristine

You should use your discretion when planning future travel, and avoid areas that are experiencing an outbreak.

The Canadian government has recently increased its travel advisories. Hota recommends visiting the Government of Canada’s website and viewing their most up-to-date travel advisories.

The site was updated Monday and recommends avoiding all travel to China’s Hubei province, which is where the virus originated from.






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Passengers react to precautions at Toronto Pearson International Airport over coronavirus


Passengers react to precautions at Toronto Pearson International Airport over coronavirus

 Is there any scientific evidence of the coronavirus’s hibernation period? How soon after being infected do people show symptoms?

Asked by: @AndrewChow

What this is referring to is the virus’s incubation period. This is the time between when you are exposed to a virus and when you begin to display symptoms.

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“All the information we have has shown this period is one-to-14 days, with a majority of the people getting physically sick between the three-and-six-day range,” Hota says.

There have been cases reported of people being asymptomatic until the 14-day mark. There are cases where people who have been infected but not showing symptoms are causing transmission to others.

“In infectious diseases, we use symptom onset, which refers to symptoms being physically present, as being when they can infect others,” Hota said.

Are face masks and hand washing effective? 

Asked by: @chelseygoller

Just like any other virus, it is good to practice good hygiene.

Hota says in order to prevent the spread of the virus, you should wash your hands often, especially when using public transit or touching surfaces that may be contaminated.

Preventative measures such as coughing into your sleeve and staying home if you are feeling unwell will also be effective. Hota says there is no need to wear face masks, and there is currently no evidence that wearing the face masks will prevent the spreading of the virus. 

“The mask is most effective when put on a person who is sick,” Ronald St. John said. “It traps the particles, so when they sneeze, the particles do not spread.”

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St. John has worked in the field of public health for more than 40 years and specializes in international infectious disease control.

Ordinary face masks will not be effective, as they have openings that will allow the virus to escape. The most effective masks to block this virus are the N95 masks.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus: How to protect yourself

What exactly are the symptoms of this? And when should you go to the hospital?

Asked by: @Selina Witte

The CDC lists the symptoms as:

  • runny nose
  • headache
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • general feeling of being unwell

In more extreme cases, coronavirus can cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis.

These extreme cases are most commonly found in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants and older adults.

If you display these symptoms or have recently been in contact with someone with the coronavirus, you should seek medical attention.

“It is very important to inform your health-care provider if you have travelled outside the country and you do get ill,” St. John said.

How long can the virus live on surfaces and materials? Should we be worried about mail from China?

Asked by: @Shaylene Blomme

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There is no exact answer as it can depend on what the material of the surface is. “It could be hours, or it could be days, depending on what we are dealing with,” Hota said.

It is important that high-touch surfaces such as handrails and countertops are cleaned regularly.

“It is highly unlikely that a virus will survive the entire time it would take to ship from China to Canada,” Hota says.

It is also recommended to implement bacteria-fighting measures when handling items like mail or money, which could possibly be contaminated.

“Wash your hands very frequently before you eat, or blow your nose, those are the important measures to keep in mind,” Hota says.

Is there a vaccine for the coronavirus?

Asked by: @fadi_q_

“There are a few groups working on vaccine development,” Hota said.

One main barrier to vaccine development is that it does take time. Once the vaccine has been developed, it needs to be trialed to ensure it is effective, and this process could take months.

There are several parties that are working tirelessly to ensure a vaccine does get out as quickly as possible, but health officials are not expecting this is a measure that will be available very soon.

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READ MORE:
Global effort to find coronavirus vaccine is underway ⁠— here’s what we know

The coronavirus seems far more widespread & deadly than is being reported, it this a fair assessment?

Asked by: @Rebel_I3uddha

It is very important to gather information from credible sources. Hota recommends sites like the World Health Organization to get a better sense of what is happening outside of Canada.

“It is possible that it is worse than what we are seeing because it does take time to play catch up with the numbers,” Hota says.

People on the front lines are so busy preventing the spread of the virus that reporting requirements may not be met.

Since many of these symptoms also mirror the common cold, we also have to take into account that many less symptomatic people may not be seeking medical attention.

With the first case of person-to-person spreading taking place in Germany, St. John says that could result in multiple outbreaks in multiple countries.

The risk in Canada still remains low.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus risk remains low in Canada despite first presumptive case: health officials






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Health minister says risk of novel coronavirus infection remains low in Canada


Health minister says risk of novel coronavirus infection remains low in Canada

Since the symptoms are so identical to the flu, is testing the only way to know you’ve got it?

Asked by: @hollyhollypop

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Many people who are experiencing symptoms are seeking medical help immediately. One benefit that we have now vs. the 2003 SARS scare is rapid access to diagnostics.

“We are making sure that people who may have been exposed, and then becoming sick with symptoms, are seeking medical attention and reporting it immediately so we can try to contain it,” Hota said.

Health-care professionals are also ordering diagnostics to differentiate symptoms from other respiratory viruses that are seen this time of year.

“If you are feeling short of breath, and feeling unwell, yes, you should be going to the hospital,” Hota said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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HIV-Associated Mycobacterium Avium Complex, Oral Candida, and SARS-CoV | IDR – Dove Medical Press

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Background

An unprecedented public health emergency is unfolding worldwide with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.1 After COVID-19 emerged, concern was voiced regarding its impact on people living with HIV.2 Some of the factors that increase susceptibility to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are also relevant for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.3,4 Certain comorbidities were stronger drivers of COVID-19 outcomes and were associated with an increased risk of death.5

Opportunistic infections (OIs) are a leading cause of mortality in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Worldwide, tuberculosis (TB) is the predominant cause of death from an infectious disease, causing more deaths than HIV/AIDS. However, the HIV pandemic has worsened the situation not only by leading to the resurgence of TB but also by suppressing the host immune system, which provides an opportunity for infection by non-TB mycobacteria (NTM).6

The most common NTM species that causes disseminated infections in patients with HIV/AIDS is Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC). HIV patients with disseminated MAC infection are at high risk of developing complications and have a higher mortality risk, thus necessitating more active clinical management.7 M. avium is one of the main causes of NTM infection-associated morbidity and mortality in HIV/AIDS patients.8 MAC infections have clinical symptoms similar to active TB infections and are therefore easily mistaken for TB.

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Candidiasis are commensal fungi of the oral mucosa often found in immunocompromised patients and are potential pathogens that can cause an OI. In HIV-1 and TB co-infected patients, oral candidiasis (OC) is found with a prevalence of 35%, and in HIV-1 patients with OC, there is a 2.4 times higher odds of having TB.9

In this report, we retrospectively describe a 23-year-old woman who was diagnosed with HIV 17 years prior. This patient had concurrent SARS-CoV-2, MAC, and OC infections. We present the diagnosis and management of these infections that allowed the patient’s recovery.

Case Presentation

The patient was a 23-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with HIV 17 years prior and had since received standard antiretroviral therapy (ART). Notably, she had switched from first line to simplified dual regimen (abacavir-lamivudine-efavirenz to lamivudine-dolutegravir) due to adverse events. She was diagnosed with TB five months prior, when her sputum smear was positive for acid-fast bacilli and the sputum culture subsequently grew TB. She was treated with rifampin, isoniazid, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. According to “Chinese Guidelines for HIV/AIDS Diagnosis and Treatment”,10 when she was diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection, she was in the AIDS stage due to poor adherence to antiretroviral medications with an HIV load of <100 viral copies/mL and a CD4+ T-cell count of 7 cells/µL.

On hospital day 1, the patient had a positive PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 in a hospital screening. She was referred to a local hospital with constitutional symptoms, including intermittent fever with chills. She had no cough or expectoration but was diagnosed with anemia and TB 5 months prior. There were no retrievable previous trends to compare.

On hospital day 6, the patient was transferred to the Southern Hospital of Zhengzhou First People’s Hospital. She had fever and chills, her temperature was 39.0°C at admission, and her SPO2 was 100% (without oxygen inhalation). She had density shadows in both lungs but had no respiratory distress and had normal oxygen saturation. The patient was found to have normochromic anemia with a hemoglobin level of 85 g/L. Additional blood test results are presented in Table 1. TB and COVID-19 were managed with azithromycin, moxifloxacin, isoniazid, rifabutin, and ethambutol, and ART was continued with lamivudine and dolutegravir. Anemia was treated by transfusion with suspended red blood cells. On hospital day 8, chest computed tomography (CT) scanning revealed substantial pulmonary lesions (Figure 1).

Table 1 Clinical Laboratory Results at Admission and Throughout the Clinical Course of Infection

Figure 1 CT scanning revealed substantial pulmonary lesions.

On hospital day 13, the patient reported fever (temperature of up to 38.8°C), but no cough, sputum cough, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. Laboratory tests results are presented in Table 1. A diagnosis of disseminated MAC infection was made by two sputum cultures positive for MAC. Co-infection is a high-risk factor for the progression of COVID-19 to severe and the patient was treated with BRII-196+BRII198 monoclonal antibody therapy. MAC was managed with moxifloxacin, azithromycin, rifabutin and ethambutol, sulfamethoxazole given orally this compound also helps to prevent pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP). Thymalfasin was given to improve immunity, low molecular weight heparin calcium was given as an anticoagulant therapy, and the other treatments described above were continued. On hospital day 16, the chest CT scan showed a thin ground-glass density shadow in both lungs, but it was slightly smaller than in previous scans (Figure 2). Laboratory tests showed C-reactive protein (CRP) of 87.6 mg/L. Azithromycin and moxifloxacin were added to the treatment protocol for anti-infection treatment, and amikacin was used as an anti-MAC treatment.

Figure 2 CT scan showed a thin ground-glass density shadow in both lungs, but it was slightly smaller than in previous scans.

On hospital day 27, the patient had intermittent fever and pain in the left abdomen and the blood test results are presented in Table 1. Chest CT scanning was performed, which showed significant improvement of the pulmonary lesions (Figure 3). On hospital day 31, the patient received convalescent plasma therapy.

Figure 3 CT scanning showed significant improvement of the pulmonary lesions.

During days 35–48 of hospitalization, the patient had stable signs and did not have cough, fever, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. The treatments described above were continued.

During days 49–54 of hospitalization, the patient had scattered leukoplakia on the oral mucosa and received fluconazole injection as an antifungal treatment and a sodium bicarbonate gargle. She received a nebulized inhalation of 2 mL of sterilized water and was administered a twice-daily injection of recombinant human interferon α. On hospital day 54, a throat swab was submitted for fungal culture and returned a positive result for Candida albicans infection. The above treatments were continued.

On days 65–67 of hospitalization, two sequential PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 returned negative results. Three consecutive days of examination showed negative results. The patient was discharged in accordance with the “Diagnosis and Treatment Plan for New Coronavirus Infected Pneumonia (Trial Seventh Edition)”.11

Discussion

A thorough history-taking and examination, as well as the appropriate use of clinical tools, are crucial for identifying concomitant OIs in immunosuppressed patients.

A longer course of COVID-19 has been reported in the setting of co-infection with HIV, particularly with low CD4 cell counts, low CD4+ levels and high levels of viral load influence the lethal progression of COVID-19.7,8,12 SARS-CoV-2 might damage lymphocytes, especially T lymphocytes, and the immune system was impaired during the period of disease.13 HIV-1 infection skewed the SARS-CoV-2 T cell response, HIV-1 mediated CD4+ T cell depletion associated with suboptimal T cell and humoral immune responses to SARS-CoV-2, and a decrease in the polyfunctional capacity of SARS CoV-2 specific CD4+ T cells was observed in COVID-19 patients.14 Our patient had multiple individual risk factors associated with prolonged viral shedding as well as a risk of severe SARS-CoV-2: advanced HIV with a low CD4 count. This maybe the reasons that over two months of intense treatment her CD4+ T cell and total lymphocyte counts remained very low, and her immune system did not improve.

The probability of an OI increases as the CD4+ T cell count declines, especially at counts below 200 cells/µL.15 This patient had switched from first line to simplified dual regimen (abacavir-lamivudine-efavirenz to lamivudine-dolutegravir) due to adverse event. She was in the AIDS stage due to poor adherence to antiretroviral medications and virological failure, with an HIV load of <100 viral copies/mL and a CD4+ T cell count maintained at <100 cells/µL, which may have contributed to the incidence of OIs. MAC are seen more commonly in patients with CD4+ T cell counts of <50 cells/µL.16 The risk of developing MAC infection increases in the presence of other concurrent infections such as TB.17 In AIDS patients, MAC infections often present clinically as disseminated MAC, with several weeks of early symptoms, such as prolonged fever, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and hepatosplenomegaly. MAC diagnoses are often delayed due to the nonspecific presentation of MAC pulmonary disease and radiological findings that overlap with other pulmonary diseases.18 Patients with risk factors and who meet the diagnostic criteria – which include clinical, radiological, and microbiological criteria – should be considered for treatment. In this case, disseminated MAC infection was diagnosed after two sputum MAC positive cultures over a period of two weeks, indicating that attention should be paid to the diagnosis. Oral candidiasis as a potential harbinger of T and B cell immunosuppression associated with viral infections and COVID-19 may be a risk factor for candidiasis.19 The practitioner should be aware of the importance of unexplained oral candidiasis associated with viral infections. PCP is a life-threatening opportunistic infection that can occur in immunodeficient individuals. The PCP mortality rate can reach 60% if the diagnosis is delayed.20 Early prevention reduces the incidence of PCP. In our case, PCP infection was prevented. This patient’s CD4+ T-cell count was below 200 cells/µL, and sulfamethoxazole was given orally to prevent PCP infection.

In terms of treatment, the use of monoclonal antibody therapy, ART, and broad-spectrum antibiotics is in line with recent literature for the treatment of COVID-19 in patients with impaired immune system functions. Neutralising monoclonal antibody therapies targeting SARS-CoV-2 accelerate reduction in viral loads and reduce the risk of disease progression for outpatient with mild COVID-19.14 Co-infection is a high-risk factor for the progression of COVID-19 to severe and the patient was treated with BRII196+BRII198 monoclonal antibody therapy. The only medication that has not been administered is steroids, which has an important reducing factor in lung injuries and was demonstrated to have better results regarding mortality rate in patients with moderate and severe COVID-19.21,22 However, at the time of the patient’s acquisition of severe immunosuppression and COVID-19, the main studies on the impact of steroids on COVID-19 mortality had not been published. Therefore, the patient did not receive steroids during hospitalization. Considering that our patient was diagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infection in a hospital screening, we speculated that in our patient, COVID-19 had existed for a long time before presentation.

Conclusion

There is a paucity of data on SARS-CoV-2 infection in people with HIV and low CD4 counts. Most studies have been retrospective cohort analyses of patients who are more likely to be virally suppressed and less likely to have CD4 counts of more than 200 cells per μL.9,23 In our cases illustrate that OIs is an important consideration in the presence of one in the setting of co-infection of advanced HIV disease and COVID-19. When treating immunocompromised individuals, some opportunistic infections, such as PCP, should be prevented in the presence of risk factors, these treatments may help reduce clinical symptoms and improve prognosis.

Ethics Statement

Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for publication of this case report and any accompanying images. The institutional approval was not required for the publication of the case details.

Funding

This work was supported by Henan Province COVID-19 Traditional Chinese Medicine Scientific Research Special Project (2022ZYFY02), the Nation Natural Science Foundation of China(U1904153), Science and Technology Research Project of Henan Province (222102310570) and Henan Province Special Project of Traditional Chinese Medicine Scientific research(2019AZB006,2019JDZX2096).

Disclosure

The authors declare that there are no competing interests in this work.

References

1. Fauci AS, Lane HC, Redfield RR. Covid-19 – navigating the uncharted. N Engl J Med. 2020;382(13):1268–1269. doi:10.1056/NEJMe2002387

2. Ballester-Arnal R, Gil-Llario MD. [The Virus that Changed Spain: impact of COVID-19 on People with HIV]. El Virus que cambió España: impacto del COVID-19 en las personas con VIH. AIDS Behav. 2020;24(8):2253–2257. Spanish. doi:10.1007/s10461-020-02877-3

3. Belaunzaran-Zamudio PF, Caro-Vega Y, Giganti MJ, et al. Frequency of non-communicable diseases in people 50 years of age and older receiving HIV care in Latin America. PLoS One. 2020;15(6):e0233965. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0233965

4. Deeks SG. Immune dysfunction, inflammation, and accelerated aging in patients on antiretroviral therapy. Top HIV Med. 2009;17(4):118–123.

5. Johnston R. The first 6 months of HIV-SARS-CoV-2 coinfection: outcomes for 6947 individuals. Curr Opin HIV AIDS. 2021;16(1):54–62. doi:10.1097/coh.0000000000000654

6. Kali A, Charles MP, Noyal MJ, Sivaraman U, Kumar S, Easow JM. Prevalence of Candida co-infection in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis. Australas Med J. 2013;6(8):387–391. doi:10.4066/amj.2013.1709

7. Wang M, Luo L, Bu H, Xia H. One case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a patient co-infected by HIV with a low CD4(+) T-cell count. Int J Infect Dis. 2020;96:148–150. doi:10.1016/j.ijid.2020.04.060

8. Huang J, Xie N, Hu X, et al. Epidemiological, virological and serological features of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in people living with human immunodeficiency Virus in Wuhan: a Population-based cohort study. Clin Infect Dis. 2021;73(7):e2086–e2094. doi:10.1093/cid/ciaa1186

9. Vizcarra P, Pérez-Elías MJ, Quereda C, et al. Description of COVID-19 in HIV-infected individuals: a single-centre, prospective cohort. Lancet HIV. 2020;7(8):e554–e564. doi:10.1016/s2352-3018(20)30164-8

10. Hepatitis C Research Group CSoIDCCfDCaP. Chinese guidelines for HIV/AIDS diagnosis and treatment. Chin J AIDS STD. 2021;27(11):1182–1201. doi:10.13419/j.cnki.aids.2021.11.02

11. China GOoNHCotPsRo. Diagnosis and treatment protocol for novel coronavirus pneumonia (trial version 7). China Med. 2020;15(06):801–805.

12. Ambrosioni J, Blanco JL, Reyes-Urueña JM, et al. Overview of SARS-CoV-2 infection in adults living with HIV. Lancet HIV. 2021;8(5):e294–e305. doi:10.1016/s2352-3018(21)00070-9

13. Qin C, Zhou L, Hu Z, et al. Dysregulation of immune response in patients with coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) in Wuhan, China. Clin Infect Dis. 2020;71(15):762–768. doi:10.1093/cid/ciaa248

14. Riou C, Stek C, Daroowala R, et al.; HIATUS consortium. Efficacy and safety of two neutralising monoclonal antibody therapies, sotrovimab and BRII-196 plus BRII-198, for adults hospitalised with COVID-19 (TICO): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet Infect Dis. 2022;22(5):622–635. doi:10.1016/s1473-3099(21)00751-9

15. Buchacz K, Lau B, Jing Y, et al. Incidence of AIDS-defining opportunistic infections in a multicohort analysis of HIV-infected persons in the United States and Canada, 2000–2010. J Infect Dis. 2016;214(6):862–872. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiw085

16. Palella FJ Jr, Delaney KM, Moorman AC, et al. Declining morbidity and mortality among patients with advanced human immunodeficiency virus infection. HIV Outpatient Study Investigators. N Engl J Med. 1998;338(13):853–860. doi:10.1056/nejm199803263381301

17. Kaplan JE, Benson C, Holmes KK, Brooks JT, Pau A, Masur H. Guidelines for prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections in HIV-infected adults and adolescents: recommendations from CDC, the National Institutes of Health, and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2009;58(Rr–4):1–207.

18. Daley CL, Winthrop KL. Mycobacterium avium complex: addressing gaps in diagnosis and management. J Infect Dis. 2020;222(Suppl 4):S199–S211. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiaa354

19. Katz J. Prevalence of candidiasis and oral candidiasis in COVID-19 patients: a cross-sectional pilot study from the patients’ registry in a large health center. Quintessence Int. 2021;52(8):714–718. doi:10.3290/j.qi.b1491959

20. Gilroy SA, Bennett NJ. Pneumocystis pneumonia. Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2011;32(6):775–782. doi:10.1055/s-0031-1295725

21. Horby P, Lim WS, Emberson JR, et al. Dexamethasone in Hospitalized Patients with Covid-19. N Engl J Med. 2021;384(8):693–704. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2021436

22. Tomazini BM, Maia IS, Cavalcanti AB, et al. Effect −19: the CoDEX randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2020;324(13):1307–1316. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.17021

23. Yousaf M, Hameed M, Alsoub H, Khatib M, Jamal W, Ahmad M. COVID-19: prolonged viral shedding in an HIV patient with literature review of risk factors for prolonged viral shedding and its implications for isolation strategies. Clin Case Rep. 2021;9(3):1397–1401. doi:10.1002/ccr3.3786

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AIDS day walk in North Battleford aims to 'banish that stigma' – Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

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In 2021, over 200 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Saskatchewan — while testing, treatment and outreach were reduced due to COVID-19.

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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. 

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“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.”

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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.

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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 Métis 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.”

— Local Journalism Initiative

  1. Katelyn Roberts has been sounding the alarm about the growing toll of syphilis on young, vulnerable women in the community.

    Sask. babies born with syphilis, HIV show gaps in prenatal care: advocates

  2. Melissa St. Denis is a peer mentor at the Persons Living With AIDS Network of Saskatchewan. She was diagnosed with HIV 13 years ago.

    ‘Nothing has changed’: The roots of Saskatchewan’s HIV crisis

  3. NORTH BATTLEFORD,SK--OCTOBER 02/2019-9999- A vending machine for harm reduction supplies located out of the Friendship Centre in North Battleford, SK on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.

    North Battleford uses vending machine in fight against HIV

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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Acting MOH urging residents to get flu shot – Simcoe Reformer

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Haldimand-Norfolk’s acting medical officer of health is urging residents to get their flu shot as soon as possible.

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“The hospital system in Ontario is currently overwhelmed with individuals seeking care for influenza and other respiratory viruses,” Dr. Matthew Strauss said Thursday. “There is strong evidence that influenza vaccination can prevent trips to the ER (emergency room) for flu.

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“I strongly recommend that you get your flu shot ASAP on this basis, particularly if you are in a high risk group.”

Flu shots are available through local pharmacies and health care providers. Children six months to two years can only get their flu shot from a doctor or nurse practitioner.

Those in the high-risk group for complications and hospitalization because of the flu include: babies and children under five; people 65 and older; people who are pregnant; people with underlying health conditions and residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities.

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The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit on Thursday said it has received a significant number of positive lab results related to influenza in recent weeks.

The health unit has received notification of 141 lab-confirmed flu cases in Haldimand or Norfolk residents between Oct. 11 and Nov. 29. During the same period of the 2019-2020 flu season there was just one confirmed case in Haldimand or Norfolk.

The flu is a virus that affects the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. Although some who get the flu will not have any symptoms or suffer mild illness, others, especially the elderly or young children, can become seriously ill from the flu.

The virus spreads by droplets from coughs or sneezes from someone who is sick with the flu. As well, it can spread if someone touches surfaces where these droplet have landed and then they touch their mouth, nose or eyes.

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Steps to protect yourself from the flu include getting vaccinated each year. Other measures including staying home and way from others if you feel sick, improving ventilation in indoor and shared spaces and frequent hand-washing with soap, water or hand sanitizer.

Washing your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth is also beneficial.

The health unit also recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touches surfaces and objects.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects.

Meanwhile, anyone with symptoms of a respiratory illness should stay home until the fever subsides and symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours and 48 hours if you have had nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Those with symptoms should not be visiting people in hospitals, retirement, long-term care homes or any facilities that includes people at higher risk of illness. Those experiencing severe or worsening symptom or in a high-risk group should seek medical attention.

For more information about the influenza virus and the flu shot, visit www.hnhu.org/ .

Vball@postmedia.com

twitter.com/EXPVBall

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