‘For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death’
Canada has done a decent job of detecting patients arriving with the novel coronavirus, but COVID-19 is going to become more difficult to contain as it spreads globally, the country’s chief medical officer said.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization said that while it’s still too early to declare COVID-19 a pandemic, the sudden outbreaks in Italy, Iran and South Korea “are deeply concerning.”
“For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death,” WHO director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a briefing. “Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”
As of Monday, China had reported about 77,362 cases of COVID-19 and 2,618 deaths. China’s unprecedented lockdown and restrictions may have blunted the coronavirus and averted hundreds of thousands of cases, according to a team of medical experts that visited the outbreak’s epicentre last week. However, the virus continues to spread, with Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait reporting their first cases.
Speaking of the escalating number of cases, Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said countries need to be prepared.
“These signs are concerning, and they mean that the window of opportunity for containment, that is for stopping the global spread of the virus, is closing,” Tam told media.
In Italy, six people have died after the country’s cases jumped to more than 200. South Korea has identified 763 cases, with 605 of them being transmitted within the country; seven people had died as of Monday morning. Iran has reported 43 cases and eight deaths.
South Korea declared the first red alert in the country since the 2009 H1N1 swine flu epidemic.
Kuwait’s civil aviation authority announced it suspended all flights to and from South Korea, Thailand and Italy.
And Air Canada said it would allow travellers to rebook flights to parts of Italy at no charge following the spike in coronavirus cases, making the country home to the biggest outbreak in Europe.
The Canadian government has updated its advice to travellers returning from abroad, asking them to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 for two weeks after they return, no matter where they travelled.
British Columbia has confirmed its seventh case of the coronavirus in a man in his 40s who had close contact with the woman diagnosed as the sixth case last week after she returned from Iran. The man had symptoms before the woman’s diagnosis and additional people who had contact with them are currently in isolation and being monitored, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
The total number of cases in Canada is now 11, with Ontario announcing its fourth case on Sunday. A Toronto woman in her 20s contracted a mild case while travelling in China. The woman had travelled to Wuhan — the centre of the outbreak — before it was quarantined, then went elsewhere in the country before returning to Canada on Feb. 21. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said given the limited contact with others and the woman’s mild illness, she likely presents a low risk.
WHO executive director Dr. Michael J. Ryan said it’s impossible to tell if COVID-19 will eventually be contained, develop into a full-blown global pandemic, or settle down into a seasonal pattern of transmission, much like the flu. But now is the time for countries to prepare for the worst.
“We believe that all countries are vulnerable,” Ryan said. “It is time to do everything you would do in preparing for a pandemic.”
The window of opportunity for containment is closing
That means preparing to take and treat cases and putting in place adequate containment measures, he said, warning that healthcare systems in even the most developed countries are already strained.
The goal is to hold the virus off for as long as possible before it starts spreading from person to person within the country, Tam said. Getting past the flu season without a major outbreak would seriously ease the burden on hospitals.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Canadians remain in mandatory quarantine after being repatriated from Wuhan, China, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship near Japan, on which many people were stricken with the virus earlier this month.
All of the evacuees who returned to Canada are in good health and show no signs of the virus, Tam said. Those from Wuhan who have been isolated in the Canadian Forces Base Trenton for two weeks are expected to be released Tuesday, the second largest group of evacuees to be allowed to go home.
— With files from the Canadian Press, Bloomberg and Reuters
Polio vaccine boosters offered to kids in London as virus linked to New York case detected – ABC News
Children in London are being offered polio vaccine boosters after sewage samples with the virus were found in multiple areas across the city.
The U.K. Health Security Agency announced Wednesday that all children between ages 1 and 9 across the British capital will be eligible to receive an inactivated polio vaccine booster.
“This will ensure a high level of protection from paralysis and help reduce further spread of the virus,” the agency said in a statement.
“While the majority of Londoners are protected from polio, the [National Health Service] will shortly be contacting parents of eligible children aged 1 to 9 years old to offer them a top-up dose to ensure they have maximum protection from the virus,” Jane Clegg, chief nurse for the NHS in London, added.
There are more than 1 million children between those ages who live in London as of mid-2020, the latest year for which data is available, according to the U.K. Office of National Statistics.
Between February 8 and July 5 of this year, poliovirus has been detected in 19 sewage samples across nine boroughs including at Beckton Sewage Treatment Works in London, which is the largest sewage treatment plant in the U.K.
Recently, a report indicated a polio case in New York was genetically linked to the samples found in the U.K.
Polio vaccines are part of routine immunizations for children. In the U.S., vaccinated children are not recommended to get a booster shot at this time.
According to the UKHSA, the booster program will begin in the areas where the virus has been detected and where vaccination rates are lowest before being rolled out across the city.
“The NHS in London will contact parents when it’s their child’s turn to come forward for a booster or catch-up polio dose — parents should take up the offer as soon as possible,” the agency’s statement read.
On July 21, health officials reported a case of polio was discovered in Rockland County in New York — just north of New York City — in a 20-year-old unvaccinated man.
The man contracted vaccine-derived polio, which means he was infected by someone who received the oral polio vaccine, which is no longer used in the U.S. or the U.K.
The oral vaccine uses a live weakened virus, which — in rare cases — can spread through fecal matter and infect unvaccinated individuals. Comparatively, the injectable polio vaccine, uses an inactivated virus.
As of Aug. 5, 11 samples were genetically linked to the Rockland County patient including six samples collected in June and July from Rockland County and five samples collected in July from nearby Orange County, health department data shows.
However, health officials have said the majority of the population is not at risk for polio because most were vaccinated as part of their regular childhood immunizations, but that it’s important for those who are unvaccinated to get their shots.
The New York State Health Department told ABC News its focus would be on ensuring immunizations.
“Our current focus is to ensure unvaccinated New Yorkers and children get immunized against polio and that they are up to date with their polio immunization schedule,” the department said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the organization in the U.S. that makes vaccine recommendations, but has not suggested any such move to add a fifth dose of polio vaccine to the current vaccine schedule underway.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
The agency recently told ABC News the U.S. health agency is deploying a team to New York to investigate the case in Rockland County. The team will also administer vaccines in the county.
“These efforts include ongoing testing of wastewater samples to monitor for poliovirus and deploying a small team to New York to assist on the ground with the investigation and vaccination efforts,” the agency said in a statement.
Monkeypox: Manitoba's top doctor gives vaccine update | CTV News – CTV News Winnipeg
Manitoba will be offering more vaccination appointments for monkeypox.
A news release from the province Thursday confirmed that additional appointments will be available “soon,” but no dates were listed.
Appointments can be made online or by calling Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or toll-free at 1-888-315-9257.
Manitoba recently expanded eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine, but on Monday, tweeted all appointments were booked.
To date, no monkeypox cases have been found in Manitoba.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said the province has a “scarce resource” of the monkeypox vaccine.
“It has to be stored properly, and it’s scarce because there are outbreaks happening in other jurisdictions,” he said. “We want to do whatever we can to avoid any wastage.”
While infections have primarily been reported in the gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) population, Roussin said it is important to avoid stigmatizing populations.
“There is a balance between risk communication and doing whatever we can to avoid stigmatizing those populations,” he said.
Roussin added the province will be releasing data on total monkeypox vaccines administered next week.
Canada to start testing some wastewater for polio 'as soon as possible' – CBC News
After new reports of polio cases abroad, and virus samples in the wastewater of several other developed countries, Canada intends to start testing wastewater from a number of cities “as soon as possible,” CBC News has learned.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) already works to monitor polio activity around the world, a spokesperson said in an email response to CBC News questions.
Currently, PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg does have the diagnostic tools available to test samples for poliovirus. Any suspected positive Canadian samples of poliovirus will be sent to that lab for further laboratory analysis and confirmation, with results shared with the respective local health authorities “so appropriate public health measures can be taken if necessary.”
According to the statement, PHAC has been communicating with national and international partners who are experts in this field to finalize a wastewater testing strategy. It will be testing wastewater samples that were collected earlier this year from “key high-risk municipalities” to determine if polio was present prior to the reported international cases.
PHAC will also be sending samples to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for additional confirmation.
“However, it is important to acknowledge that accurately testing wastewater for poliovirus is a developing science,” the statement continued. “For example, wastewater detections can be affected by extreme precipitation events, such as flooding in a community.”
Reports of polio in U.S., U.K., Israel
On Wednesday, British health authorities announced they will offer a polio booster dose to children aged one to nine in London, after finding evidence the virus has been spreading in multiple regions of the capital.
The agency said it was working closely with health authorities in the U.S. and Israel, as well as the World Health Organization, to investigate the links between polio viruses detected in those two countries.
In July, Israel announced a recent outbreak of polio infections appeared to be under control, after multiple people became infected, including a Jerusalem girl who was paralyzed and now requires rehabilitation, according to the Jerusalem Post.
More recently, in the state of New York, one unvaccinated young adult suffered paralysis after a polio infection in Rockland County — an area known for low vaccination rates — which marked the first case reported in the U.S. in nearly a decade.
Outbreaks also remain common in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Africa — areas of the world where vaccination efforts have not yet eradicated the virus.
Polio can often be asymptomatic, but in some cases, the viral infection can lead to paralysis or death.
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