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What Canadians need to know about the coronavirus variant in Ontario – CBC.ca

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Health officials in Ontario said on Saturday that two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom have appeared in the province — the first confirmed instances in Canada.

The new variant is believed to spread easier and faster than the original version of the virus, but it is not believed to be more deadly.

Scientists say there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines currently being deployed — including those approved for use in Canada — will not protect against this variant.

Here is what Canadians should know about the new variant.

What makes this variant different?

This variant is not the first new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to emerge since the pandemic began. The main worry is that the variant seems to be more transmissible than the original. It has 23 mutations in its genetic code — a relatively high number of changes — and some of these could be affecting its ability to spread.

“While early data suggests that these new variants may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that they cause more severe disease or have any impact on antibody response or vaccine effectiveness,” the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said in a statement Saturday.

The agency said more research is needed to confirm these findings.

Where were the Canadian cases found?

The Canadian cases, identified in a couple in southern Ontario, came as the province went into a lockdown on Saturday.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said the couple from Durham Region, just east of Toronto, had no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.

WATCH | Coronavirus variant identified in Ontario:

A couple was found to be carrying the virus, but neither had travelled or been in contact with a known case, officials say. 2:45

“This further reinforces the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible and continue to follow all public health advice, including the provincewide shutdown measures beginning today,” Yaffe said in a statement issued Saturday.

According to the statement, both individuals have been informed of the diagnosis and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols. It noted the discovery of the variant was “not unexpected” due to inbound international travel.

How should Canadians approach this new variant?

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, told CBC News Network’s Natalie Kalata on Saturday that people should take the same precautions with this variant that they would for the original virus.

“It’s important that everyone adheres to the public health rules now a hundred times better than they were before, given that it is more transmissible,” Chagla said.

Those include physical distancing, wearing masks, practising good hand hygiene, avoiding going out when feeling unwell and seeking a COVID-19 test when appropriate, he said.

WATCH | What is known about the new coronavirus variant:

The new variant of coronavirus is not showing itself to be more severe, but it is spreading exponentially faster, which is a serious concern in the middle of a pandemic. At this point, doctors believe the vaccines that have started rolling out around the world will protect people. 1:57

Although the Canadians with the variant had no known travel history, Chagla said it was likely brought into Canada from somewhere else — particularly as the mutations in the U.K. variant match the Canadian cases.

Last week, Canada extended to Jan. 6 a ban on passenger flights arriving from Britain and expanded enhanced screening and monitoring measures for travelers arriving from South Africa, citing the rise of the more infectious variant.

“It just is another reinforcement that we do have quarantine and border controls, but they’re not perfect. And we’ve seen in many countries around the world, we can still see transmission from international travel,” Chagla said.

Will COVID-19 vaccines be effective against the variant?

Several drugmakers expect their COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against the new fast-spreading variant of the virus, including those whose vaccines are currently approved for use in Canada.

Ugur Sahin, chief executive of Germany’s BioNTech — which partnered with Pfizer to create a vaccine — said on Tuesday he expects its messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine to still work well.

“Scientifically it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine can also deal with this virus variant,” Sahin said. He added that it will take another two weeks or so of study and data collection to get a definitive answer.

“The vaccine contains more than 1,270 amino acids, and only nine of them are changed (in the mutated virus). That means that 99 per cent of the protein is still the same.”

WATCH | Comparing the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines:

The two COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both use new mRNA technology, but they differ on timing for the second shot, as well as storage and transportation requirements. 2:30

Moderna said on Wednesday it expects the immunity induced by its COVID-19 vaccine would be protective against the variants reported in the U.K. The U.S.-based company said it plans to run tests to confirm its mRNA vaccine’s effectiveness against any strain.

“We have already tested sera from animals and humans vaccinated with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine against a number of previous variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that have emerged since the first outbreak of the pandemic and found our vaccine to remain equally effective,” the company said in a statement.

In the event that the variant presents vaccine developers with an unexpected challenge, an advantage of mRNA is that scientists can quickly re-engineer genetic material in the shot to match that of the mutated protein, whereas modifying traditional vaccines would require extra steps.

“In principle, the beauty of the mRNA technology is we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation,” Sahin said. “We could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks. Of course, this is not only a technical question. We have to deal with how regulators… would see that.”

Canada began rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier this month and started distributing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine across the country last Thursday.

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What is the Delta variant of coronavirus with K417N mutation?

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 India said on Wednesday it has found around 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Below is what we know about the variant.

WHAT IS DELTA PLUS?

The variant, called “Delta Plus” in India, was first reported in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation called K417N which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

WHERE ALL IT HAS BEEN FOUND?

As of June 16 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994839/Variants_of_Concern_VOC_Technical_Briefing_16.pdf, at least 197 cases has been found from 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday around 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first 5 cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the UK and Indian cases.

WHAT ARE THE WORRIES?

Studies are ongoing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination.”

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council for Medical Research.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Pune, Bhargav Acharya and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru and Alistair Smout in London; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Giles Elgood)

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Colon Cancer Rates Have Increased: How Can You Improve Your Gut Health?

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The majority of colon cancer cases are more common among older citizens. However, research has found that colorectal cancer rates have been rising in healthy people under 50. The rate has increased over the ten years. Medical professionals recommend screening from age 45. A colorectal screening test is done to ensure that the individual does not have any signs of cancer.

A study found that there has been a surge in colorectal cancer in younger generations and could become the dominant cause of cancer-related deaths by 2030. Since the risk is alarming, everyone needs to take their gut health seriously. Here are some things that people can do to improve their well-being.

Consider Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a type of colon cleanse that treats digestive issues such as constipation and bloating. Chronic constipation can lead to colon cancer, so it is vital to deal with the issue before it worsens. Colon hydrotherapy is offered at a few places, including a wellness colonic clinic in Toronto where the staff is committed to providing solutions for their clients’ digestive health.

Cleansing your colon can help improve digestion, relieve constipation, reduce gas, rejuvenate skin, and increase energy. The process involves flushing the colon with a large volume of water. It can be beneficial to speak to the professionals at the clinic and discuss your concerns with them. They will educate you about the process and answer any concerns you may have. The treatment can seem overwhelming but can also be helpful for your gut health.

 

Consume Sensibly

Your food intake plays a significant role in your gut health. If you have gut problems, it may be worthwhile to speak to a doctor and change your diet. You should also consider finding out if you have any food intolerance. There may be trigger foods such as oil or dairy that could be causing discomfort.

Even if you do not have any problems with your food consumption, it is never wrong to watch what you eat. Foods with probiotics or high fibre content can be good for you. Eating the right foods can improve your overall health too.

Stay Hydrated

Water almost seems like a magical drink sometimes. From skin problems to digestive issues, it can improve many situations. Consuming a good amount of water every day can balance good bacteria in the gut and promote your health. Hydration can also help your organs function properly and improve cognitive function.

Say Goodbye to Extreme Stress

It can be challenging to bid farewell to stress forever. However, chronic high levels of stress can impact your abdomen and your overall health. There is a connection between the brain and gut, and stress can cause your stomach to become anxious.

Long-term stress can trigger several gut problems such as indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea. Look for ways to reduce stress levels so that your gut can remain healthy.

Some health problems are inevitable with age, but you can do your best to stay healthy and deal with any issues you face. Prepare yourself to fight any disease beforehand, and your body will thank you.

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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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