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Why this year’s flu season could be particularly dangerous for kids – Global News



According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the country is seeing an unusually high number of influenza B cases this season.

Type B flu causes more severe illness in children and has been linked to sudden cardiac death.

“I don’t think there is conclusive knowledge as to why, but we do [know] that children especially are effected by it much more than adults,” said Dr. Phillip van der Merwe, a Calgary family doctor.

Number of flu-related deaths in Alberta this season jumps to 6: AHS

So far this season, more than 3,200 cases of flu have been reported across Canada since the end of August.

Of those cases, 1,357 were classified as Type B, with 63 per cent of those patients under the age of 20.

Alberta sees spike in flu cases, including 3 deaths

Alberta sees spike in flu cases, including 3 deaths

The best protection against influenza is the flu vaccine, which protects against two strains of A and two strains of B.

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Flu forecast 2019: Here’s what to expect from this year’s flu season

“Because we have a circulating B strain, the vaccine does tend to work better against flu B, so it’s a good one to get,” said Dr. Jia Hu, medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services in Calgary.

H3N2 and H1N1, two strains of influenza A, are also circulating in Canada this year.

H3N2 is typically associated with more severe illness in older adults, while H1N1 typically impacts younger adults between 20 and 64.

The latest FluWatch surveillance report shows an increase in flu activity through most of Alberta, the B.C. Lower Mainland, southern Ontario and parts of Quebec.

After slow start, flu season to ramp up in Alberta

After slow start, flu season to ramp up in Alberta

Flu season typically peaks after Christmas, because air travel, large family gatherings or trips to busy shopping malls allow the virus to easily spread.

“The problem with the virus, too, is that you’re most infectious before you have symptoms,” said Dr. Peter Nieman, a Calgary pediatrician.

“So for 24 hours before you know there’s trouble, that’s when you start infecting people.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Austrian government proposes law to legalise assisted suicide



Austria’s federal government has submitted a draft law to make assisted suicide for seriously ill adults legal, the federal chancellery said in a statement on Saturday.

The new law lays out the conditions under which assisted suicide will be possible in the future, following a ruling by Austria’s Constitutional Court last December according to which banning assisted suicide was unconstitutional because it violated a person’s right to self-determination.

“Seriously ill people should have access to assisted suicide,” the federal chancellery said in the statement.

The new law allows chronically or terminally ill adults to make provisions for an assisted suicide.

They have to consult two doctors who have to attest the person is capable of making his or her own decisions. A delay of 12 weeks also has to be respected that can be reduced to two weeks for patients in the final phase of an illness.


(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Namibia suspends use of Russian COVID vaccine after S.Africa flags HIV concerns



Namibia will suspend the rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, its health ministry said on Saturday, days after the drugs regulator in neighbouring South Africa flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV.

Regulator SAHPRA decided not to approve an emergency use application for Sputnik V for now because some studies suggested that administration of vaccines using the Adenovirus Type 5 vector – which Sputnik V does – can lead to higher susceptibility to HIV in men.

South Africa and Namibia have high HIV prevalence rates.

Namibia’s health ministry said in a statement that the decision to discontinue use of the Russian vaccine was “out of (an) abundance of caution that men (who) received Sputnik V may be at higher risk of contracting HIV,” adding it had taken SAHPRA’s decision into account.

The Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said Namibia’s decision was not based on any scientific evidence or research.

“Sputnik V remains one of the safest and most efficient vaccines against COVID-19 in use globally,” the institute told Reuters, adding over 250 clinical trials and 75 international publications confirmed the safety of vaccines and medicines based on human adenovirus vectors.

Namibia said the suspension would take effect immediately and last until Sputnik V receives a World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing. But it will offer people who received a first dose of Sputnik V a second to complete their immunisation course.

Namibia received 30,000 doses of Sputnik V as a donation from the Serbian government, but only 115 had been administered as of Oct. 20.

Namibia has also been using COVID-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinopharm, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, acquired through a mix of procurement deals and donations.

So far it has only fully vaccinated around 240,000 of its 2.5 million people, reflecting African nations’ difficulties securing enough vaccines amid a global scramble for shots.


(Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa in Windhoek and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Alexander Winning and Ros Russell)

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Britain reports highest weekly COVID-19 cases since July



Britain recorded the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 since July over the past week, government figures showed on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down the prospect of a return to lockdown.

Some 333,465 people in Britain tested positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days, up 15% on the previous week and the highest total since the seven days to July 21.

Daily figures showed there were 44,985 new cases on Saturday, down from 49,298 on Friday. Daily death figures were only available for England, and showed 135 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test.

Deaths have risen by 12% over the past week, and the total since the start of the pandemic now stands at 139,461, the second highest in Europe after Russia.

While vaccination and better medical treatment have sharply reduced deaths compared with previous waves of the disease, hospitals are already stretched and Britain’s current death rate is far higher than many of its European neighbours.

Government health advisors said on Friday that preparations should be made for the possible reintroduction of measures to slow the spread of the disease, such as working from home, as acting early would reduce the need for tougher measures later.

Johnson, however, said he did not expect a return to lockdown.

“We see absolutely nothing to indicate that is on the cards at all,” he said on Friday.


(Reporting by David Milliken, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Christina Fincer)

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