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These life-saving devices are everywhere. But could you find one when you need it?

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Sean Ferguson didn’t have a pulse for 11 minutes.

In the summer of 2016, Ferguson, then 23, went into cardiac arrest while playing pickup basketball with friends at the field house at Cape Breton University.

Ferguson doesn’t remember much of that day. He was a month away from his wedding. He tries to avoid thinking about how his wife might have had to plan a funeral instead. 

“I was told that for 11 minutes I was clinically dead, pronounced dead … that’s what the ambulance drivers and the doctors told my family and the boys that were there that day.” 

As he lay on the court, someone called 911 and another friend sprinted to a nearby rink to grab a defibrillator. Used along with CPR, the device’s shock helped stop Ferguson’s heart from quivering erratically — resetting it to a normal rhythm and keeping him alive. 

The Nova Scotia government is still working on ensuring people who call 911 for help during a cardiac arrest can receive directions to the nearest defibrillator.

Life-saving portable defibrillators are in schools, rinks, businesses and community centres across Atlantic Canada. But there’s a problem: Even 911 dispatchers often don’t know the locations. 1:24

In Ferguson’s case, he later found out there was an even closer defibrillator — less than 10 metres from where he collapsed. Luckily, his friends did chest compressions and were still able to bring a device to him in a matter of minutes

“In a scenario like that, you’re so scrabbly, your adrenaline is so high and your reactions may not be as composed as they normally are. For you to make one phone call and be told where it is, I feel like that is huge in being able to save lives,” he said.

A 2017 CBC News investigation found many defibrillators in Atlantic Canada are not registered with provincial authorities, and emergency dispatchers in Nova Scotia don’t even know where they are located, making it impossible to direct bystanders to nearby devices.

Since then, the Nova Scotia government has installed new software — but it hasn’t started using it. Staff are still getting rid of technical glitches, said paramedic Mike Janczyszyn, who co-ordinates a provincial registry of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs.

“We’ve encountered more delays than we’d like already … we are aggressively working toward that right now,” he said.

When it starts running, an alert will pop up in EHS’s communications centre when there’s a defibrillator within 1,200 metres of a cardiac arrest. That way, the dispatchers can tell people on the scene exactly where to find one. Similar programs have been running for years in other parts of Canada.

A newly expanded and renovated EHS dispatch centre opened in November in Halifax. The dispatchers are required to ask 911 callers if there’s a defibrillator in the area. Eventually, they’ll receive an alert notifying them when there’s one close to a caller’s address. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The automated external defibrillator used on Ferguson is one of about 700 registered devices sprinkled across Nova Scotia.  

They’re often stationed in gyms, movie theatres, malls and rinks. Getting to them quickly is crucial when someone is experiencing cardiac arrest. 

When people go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, their survival rate is about five per cent, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Janczyszyn said the combination of calling for help, CPR and AEDs can dramatically improve people’s chances. Chest compressions and artificial respiration keeps blood flowing, ensuring people’s organs receive oxygen, keeping them alive. 

“Every minute that passes without an [automated external defibrillator], without doing CPR, your chance of survival go down by about seven to 10 per cent,” said Janczyszyn.

Paramedic Mike Janczyszyn co-ordinates EHS’s automated external defibrillator registry. (CBC)

When someone collapses, people often don’t reach for a defibrillator because they don’t know where to find one, he said. And research shows even when people are trained, they may not do CPR, which is necessary for a defibrillator to be effective.

“There’s no liability involved with using an AED as long as you’re using it properly,” said Janczyszyn. “It actually tells you exactly what to do. The most important thing with using an AED is grabbing it and turning it on.”

Janczyszyn has been trying to ensure all the devices in Nova Scotia are included in the provincial registry so directions to them will be available in an emergency. He’s helped doubled the number of registered devices since last December.

Not all of them are considered publicly accessible and Janczyszyn estimates the number of registered devices could be less than half of the defibrillators available.

“They need to be out in the public. They don’t need to be behind closed doors or locked doors but they need to be in publicly accessible areas to be effective,” he said. 

EHS has upped its promotion and has been holding information sessions in an effort to stress the importance of CPR and encourage organizations to sign up their devices. As of November, it was possible to do so online.

It’s possible to purchase a defibrillator that is enclosed in a heated case so it doesn’t freeze in the winter and the battery doesn’t die. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

When people register, they can decide whether to list their device as publicly accessible and also opt to be “responders,” meaning they will be notified when there’s a cardiac arrest within 1,200 metres of their defibrillator.

“You could get a text message or voice call that there’s a cardiac arrest nearby and respond with your AED. That kind of eliminates some of the time as opposed to someone just being at the scene and bringing it back,” said Janczyszyn. “The more people to help you out in that scenario, the better.”

So far, 78 people have signed up. 

“We’d love to have the numbers higher but it’s based on preference of anyone who registered. Seventy-eight is a great number when you look at it. That’s 78 additional bystanders or rescuers in Nova Scotia that are willing to help,” he said.

Alyssa and Sean Ferguson on their wedding date, almost exactly a month after Sean nearly died. (Anita Clements)

After Ferguson’s close call, he spent 22 days in hospital in Halifax and Sydney.  Due to a heart condition — hypertrophic cardiomyopathy subcutaneous — a type of defibrillator is now implanted in his chest.

Two and a half years later, he’s celebrating the holidays with his wife and young son. He recommends people experiencing heart issues get blood work done and an EKG, just in case. He always keeps an eye out for the devices that saved his life. 

“I say this to people and business owners and friends, it’s just so easy to have one,” he said. “I do everything I can to be positive, upbeat and educate people.”

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

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(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:

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

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(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.”

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

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(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.

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