Connect with us

Health

Children are bearing the brunt of this year’s flu season, health officials say

Editor

Published

on

[ad_1]

Many Canadian children are spending the holidays battling the flu and other respiratory illnesses — and an early start to the flu season might be partly to blame, pediatricians and public health officials say. 

“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of viral illness [in children],” said Dr. Catherine Farrell, a pediatric intensive care specialist at CHU Sainte-Justine, a pediatric and maternal care hospital in Montreal. 

“Our hospitals are bursting to the seams. Our emergency rooms are really overloaded. Our inpatient units are full and we have a very high occupation rate with respiratory illness in the intensive care unit … and it’s the same with the other intensive care units here in Quebec,” Farrell said. 

There are a few different types of respiratory viruses circulating, she said, including influenza A — which can lead to serious secondary infections, such as pneumonia, that put children in hospital. 

More than three times as many children have been hospitalized with the flu across the country compared to this time last year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s latest FluWatch report

Early start to flu season

As of Dec. 15 (the most recent data available), 8,245 cases of the flu in both adults and children had been confirmed, according to the FluWatch report.  About 10 per cent of those cases — 864 — required hospitalization.  More than 280 of those hospitalizations were children age 16 or under.   

Most of the 47 cases so serious that they required admission to the ICU were children under 10 years of age, the report said.   

At this time last year, there were 2,400 fewer confirmed flu cases in Canada overall — and only 26 children had been hospitalized. 

Respiratory illnesses, including the flu, have hospitals such as CHU Sainte-Justine in Montreal ‘bursting to the seams,’ says pediatric intensive care specialist Dr. Catherine Farrell. (Radio-Canada)

There are a couple of possible reasons for the increased number of hospitalizations among children this year, said Anna Maddison, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, in an email to CBC News. 

“The current flu season began two weeks earlier compared to last year,” she said. It started in mid-October rather than the beginning of November.  

That means it’s possible that by the end of the flu season, the total number of children hospitalized may be the same as last year, but simply happened earlier. 

Different influenza strains

The dominant strain of flu circulating this year — influenza A H1N1 — is also associated with “a higher burden of disease … among children than among adults,” Maddison said. 

Last year, the dominant strain was influenza A H3N2 — a particularly virulent type that made people of all ages very sick, but sent more adults age 65 and over to hospital than children and younger adults.    

Although the flu is “a pretty severe infection” compared to a cold, the majority of people — both children and adults — are able to recover at home without having to go to the hospital, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital. 

Very young children, seniors and people with underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, are most at risk of becoming so ill they require hospitalization, he said. 

One reason for hospitalization can be pneumonia, which is a “very well-known complication of influenza ,” Bogoch said. 

Pneumonia concerns

Both CHU Sainte-Justine in Montreal and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto say they have seen many children with pneumonia recently, although it’s not clear whether those cases are linked to the flu. 

“We typically see many kids presenting with pneumonia at this time of the year. Anecdotally, we have seen high volumes of children presenting with pneumonia over the past few weeks,” Jessamine Luck, a SickKids spokesperson, told CBC News in an email.  

“Pneumonia can be related to influenza but it can also be caused by other viral and bacterial illnesses in children.”

But unlike most of those other illnesses, there is a vaccine for influenza, said Farrell, who is also president of the Canadian Paediatric Society.  

It’s not too late for parents to get their children the flu shot, she said.

Public health officials have acknowledged that last year’s flu vaccine was disappointing, with a low effectiveness rate. Although it’s too soon to measure the effectiveness this year’s version, some early indicators are promising, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

The flu vaccine can be given to children with either a needle or nasal spray. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Based on laboratory comparisons between the form of H1N1 virus built into the vaccine and the form of the virus that has actually emerged as the dominant strain, “the vaccine component this season appears to be a good match against the H1N1 viruses that are predominantly circulating in Canada,” Maddison said.   

In addition, preliminary data from Australia — which already had its flu season — showed that people who had been vaccinated this year were 68 per cent less likely to see a doctor or nurse practitioner for the flu compared to unvaccinated people, she said. 

Choosing to get the flu shot — for yourself and for your children — is a “no-brainer,” Bogoch said.

“[It’s] likely to be much, much better than last year,” he said. 

But even if it weren’t, the flu shot does more than prevent the virus, he said, noting that data suggests the vaccine can also help reduce the severity of infection — which in turn could prevent hospitalizations.

When to seek medical attention for your child

With an increased number of children falling ill with the flu and other respiratory illnesses this time of year, CBC News asked Dr. Jonathan Gubbay, a pediatric infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist with Public Health Ontario for his advice to parents. 

From a prevention standpoint, the best things parents can do is have their children vaccinated against the flu, make sure they are washing their hands and keep them home from school if they are sick so they don’t spread the virus to others, he said. 

When their children are sick, parents should watch for signs of an “acute” respiratory infection, including pneumonia. Those signs include:

  • A fever that doesn’t get better within a couple of days.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Breathing rapidly.

If children show any of those symptoms, parents should take them to see their doctor or nurse practitioner, or to the hospital, Gubbay said. 

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Health

Health Ranger posts new microscopy photos of covid swabs, covid masks and mysterious red and blue fibers

Editor

Published

on

By

(Natural News) What follows is a series of microscopy photos of covid swabs (a synthetic swab, then a cotton swab), a covid mask and some zoomed-in photos of mysterious red and blue fibers found in the masks.

The magnification range for these photos is 50X to 200X. Most were taken with white light, but several (as indicated) were taken with UV light.

The images shown here are 600 pixels wide. We have higher resolution images available to researchers and indy media journalists; contact us for those hi-res images.

More microscopy investigations are under way, and new images will be posted as they are finalized.

First, this series shows the carbon fiber layer of a covid mask, illuminated with UV light:

Continue Reading

Health

5,800 test positive, 74 die of coronavirus at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated

Editor

Published

on

By

(Natural News) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, April 15, confirmed some 5,800 breakthrough coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S.

A breakthrough COVID-19 case is defined as someone who has detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated against the disease.

Nearly 400 breakthrough cases required treatment at hospitals and 74 died. A little over 40 percent of the infections were in people 60 years and above and 65 percent were female. About 29 percent of the vaccine breakthrough infections were reportedly asymptomatic. The figures were for cases through April 13.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a congressional hearing on Thursday that the causes of the breakthrough cases are being probed. “Some of these breakthroughs are, of course, failure of an immune response in the host. And then some of them we worry might be related to a variant that is circulating. So we’re looking at both,” she said.

The CDC is monitoring reported cases “for clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type or lot number, and SARS-CoV-2 lineage.” It has created a national COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough database, where state health departments can enter, store and manage data for cases in their region.

Where available, respiratory specimens that tested positive for COVID-19 will be collected for genomic sequencing “to identify the virus lineage that caused the infection.”

Positive test less than two weeks after getting fully vaccinated is not a breakthrough case

The number of cases the CDC has identified does not include people who contracted COVID-19 less than two weeks after their final dose. The two-week marker is important, said infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

A human body should have enough time to develop antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 after that timeframe. Before then, a person won’t necessarily have the built-up immunity needed to fight off an infection. According to Dr. Adalja, cases that occur before the two-week mark are not considered breakthrough cases.

Dr. Adalja also noted that more research is needed to determine if highly infectious variants of the virus are behind the breakthrough cases. “It is crucial to study breakthrough cases to understand their severity, their contagiousness and what role variants may be playing,” Dr. Adalja said.

More than 78 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S. as of April 15.

“To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics,” the CDC said in a statement. “COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control.”

But the CDC conceded that “thousands of vaccine breakthrough cases will occur even though the vaccine is working as expected.”

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed with the CDC. “These vaccines that we’re using are fabulous but they’re not perfect,” he said. “At best, they’re 95 percent effective in preventing serious illness, but minor illnesses can occur.”

According to U.S. drug regulators, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing infection. Moderna’s was shown in a clinical trial to be 94.1 percent effective while Johnson & Johnson’s was 66.9 percent effective. Only Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received its emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 27, was tested when variants were circulating.

The percentages are based on results from vaccine recipients two weeks after the final vaccination.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated in a briefing last week that the breakthrough cases are not a cause for concern.

“I think the important thing is to look at what the denominator of vaccinated people is. Because it is very likely that the number of breakthrough cases is not at all incompatible with the 90-plus percent vaccine efficacy,” he said. “So I don’t think that there needs to be concern about any shift or change in the efficacy of the vaccine.”

More info needed before drawing conclusions from breakthrough cases

The percentage of vaccine breakthroughs in a population depends on multiple factors, including vaccine efficacy, the amount of virus circulating and the length of time since vaccination, according to Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida.

“I love to see small numbers as much as anyone, but know that numbers like this cannot be directly interpreted as a measure of vaccine efficacy (although I have a feeling they will be). We can only interpret them against a background rate in unvaccinated people,” Dean wrote on Twitter.

“Similarly, ‘most breakthroughs have been in elderly adults’ should not be read as the vaccine is less effective in elderly adults. The majority of vaccinations (and the longest amount of follow-up time) have been in elderly adults. Again, we need more info to interpret.”

Continue Reading

Health

More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus in San Francisco last year

Editor

Published

on

By

(Natural News) More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus (COVID-19) in San Francisco last year, a microcosm of a larger nationwide problem coinciding with the pandemic.

Data from San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shows that 708 people were killed by fentanyl in 2020, an astonishing 118 times more since the introduction of the drug in the city just five years earlier.

That figure nearly tripled the 254 COVID-19 deaths recorded in the city for the whole of last year. More than 8 in 10 deaths were male, and just under half were white. People aged 55 to 64 made up nearly a quarter of the fatalities. Nearly 40 percent of the deaths occurred in open-air drug markets such as the Tenderloin and South of Market.

The number of overdose deaths in the city could have been far worse as more than 3,000 addicts suffering from an overdose were administered with naloxone, the lifesaving medication that reverses overdoses.

San Francisco’s death rate from fentanyl overdose continues to rise this year as 135 died by overdose in January and February, putting the city on pace for more than 800 deaths by the end of the year.

The city has become a significant part of a larger trend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data on Wednesday, April 14, showing that more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdose over the 12-month period that ended in September last year – the highest since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s.

Lockdowns lead to more cases of drug overdose

The surge represents an increasingly urgent public health crisis that may be correlated to the government’s monotonous battle plan against the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 19 last year, California became the first state in the U.S. to implement a stay-at-home order. It subsequently endured the longest lockdown of any state in the country.

The pandemic and accompanying lockdowns are believed to be partly responsible for the soaring number of drug deaths for obvious reasons. Lockdowns have badly disrupted the social services in the city, including drug addiction treatment. Drug experts say the isolation of the past 12 months is causing vulnerable residents to turn to opioids.

“We see the death and devastation getting worse right in front of us,” said Matt Haney, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member. “It’s an unprecedented spiraling, directly connected to the introduction of fentanyl in our city.”

Fentanyl first appeared on the streets of San Francisco in 2015. There were just six deaths from the synthetic opioid that year, 12 deaths in 2016 and 37 deaths in 2017. The figure skyrocketed when the drugs became widely available in the city in 2018.

Kristen Marshall, manager of the national drug harm reduction DOPE Project, noted the grim irony that while social isolation could save lives from COVID-19, it had undoubtedly contributed to the number of overdose deaths.

“Isolation is also the thing that puts people at the absolute highest risk of overdose death,” she said.

Pandemic exacerbates rise in deaths from drug overdose

The number of deaths from drug overdose started rising in the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, making it hard to gauge how closely the two phenomena are linked. But the pandemic unquestionably exacerbated the trend. The biggest jump in overdose deaths took place in April and May when fear and stress were rampant, job losses were multiplying and the strictest lockdown measures were in effect.

Many treatment programs closed during that time while drop-in centers, which provide support, clean syringes and naloxone, cut back services.

The data released by the CDC shows a 29 percent rise in overdose deaths from October 2019 through September 2020 compared with the previous 12-month period. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were the primary drivers, although many fatal overdoses have also involved stimulant drugs like methamphetamine.

Unlike in the early years of the opioid epidemic, when deaths were largely among white Americans in rural and suburban areas, the current crisis is affecting Black Americans disproportionately.

“The highest increase in mortality from opioids, predominantly driven by fentanyl, is now among Black Americans,” Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said at a national addiction conference last week.

“And when you look at mortality from methamphetamine, it’s chilling to realize that the risk of dying from methamphetamine overdose is 12-fold higher among American Indians and Alaskan Natives than other groups.”

Dr. Volkow added that more deaths than ever involved drug combinations, typically of fentanyl or heroin with stimulants.

“Dealers are lacing these non-opioid drugs with cheaper, yet potent, opioids to make a larger profit,” she said. “Someone who’s addicted to a stimulant drug like cocaine or methamphetamine is not tolerant to opioids, which means they are going to be at high risk of overdose if they get a stimulant drug that’s laced with an opioid like fentanyl.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supported Dr. Volkow’s claim, saying that transnational criminal organizations cause a spike in overdoses by mixing fentanyl into illicit narcotics.

According to the DEA, Mexican cartels often purchase the drug components in China and use human mules to smuggle the narcotics to lucrative drug markets north of the border.

Continue Reading

Chat

Trending