With Canada’s colder weather comes respiratory virus season, and flus and RSV are circulating alongside the COVID-19 virus that remains with us. While Canadians learned a lot about how to protect themselves from illness over the course of the pandemic, new information released by health care practitioners can help inform decisions, from availability of flu shots to any changes in COVID protocols.

We’ll be publishing an update on respiratory virus season each week. Looking for more information on the topic that you don’t see here? E-mail [email protected] to see if we can help you.

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The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Dartmouth, N.S., on June 3, 2021.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

The latest news

  • The fall COVID-19 shot cut the risk of COVID illness in half overall, and by 67 per cent for people with a previous confirmed infection, according to the Canadian network that also tracks the performance of the flu vaccine. The influenza vaccine was 63 per cent effective against A(H1N1), the dominant strain this season, the group concluded in its mid-season estimates.
  • As of the week ended Feb. 17, the influenza indicators that the Public Health Agency of Canada tracks – test positivity rates, confirmed outbreaks, severe outcomes and overall flu activity – are holding steady at levels that are at or below expected levels for this time of year. The number of influenza B cases is rising, as often happens as spring approaches, but remains low.
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus levels are also stable and below expected levels for this time of year, according to PHAC’s latest surveillance report. RSV was a major ingredient in the viral stew that overwhelmed Canadian pediatric hospitals last season, when respiratory illnesses rebounded after COVID restrictions were lifted. A new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information confirms just how hard last season was on children’s health facilities.

Flu shots

It’s not too late to get your flu shot. Influenza B, which is sometimes more dangerous to children than influenza A, is on the rise now. The strain often peaks in the spring. Flu shot appointments are still available for anyone six months and older.

Find out about clinics and availability for each of the provinces and territories here:

Newfoundland and Labrador; Prince Edward Island; Nova Scotia; New Brunswick; Quebec; Ontario; Manitoba; Saskatchewan; Alberta; British Columbia; Yukon; Northwest Territories; Nunavut

COVID boosters

The three authorized vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax, protect against the XBB.1.5 subvariant of COVID-19 and should provide good protection against the related JN.1 family, now dominant in Canada. The reformulated mRNA shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are approved for anyone six months and older. Novavax’s shot is approved for those 12 and up.

COVID-19 vaccine information for the provinces and territories can be found here:

Newfoundland and Labrador; Prince Edward Island; Nova Scotia; New Brunswick; Quebec; Ontario; Manitoba; Saskatchewan; Alberta; British Columbia; Yukon; Northwest Territories; Nunavut

Flu outlook in Canada

Influenza indicators are stable, and continue to be at or below expected levels for this time of year. The influenza A season peaked at the end of December. There have been 3,652 hospital admissions linked to influenza in the fall and winter of 2023-24, with seniors accounting for nearly half of those admissions.

There have been 623 influenza-association admissions this season among children at eight Canadian hospitals that act as sentinel sites for tracking the severity of influenza in kids.

Hospitalization for COVID-19

Hospital admissions for COVID-19 continue to decline, according to PHAC. The total number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients fell to 2,531 beds in the week ended Feb. 20, down from 2,637 the week before.

Current health guidance for COVID-19

Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary, but generally include sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, feeling feverish, chills, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, new loss of smell or taste, headache, abdominal pain and diarrhea. According to Health Canada, you may start experiencing symptoms anywhere from one to 14 days after exposure. Typically, symptoms appear between three to seven days after exposure.

Health Canada advises following the testing guidelines provided by your local public health authority if you have symptoms or have been exposed to a person with COVID-19. If you test positive, immediately isolate yourself from others, including those in your household, and follow the advice of your local public health authority on isolation requirements.

How to protect yourself and your loved ones from respiratory viruses

Respiratory viruses are spread from person to person or through contact with contaminated surfaces, so it’s important to protect against both forms of transmission. Health Canada recommends wearing a medical mask or respirator, washing your hands regularly or using hand sanitizer, covering your coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and objects. If you feel sick, stay home and limit contact with others.

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Massachusetts health officials concerned about pets and wildlife after detecting the bird flu.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) recently issued a warning regarding the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, in the state. The presence of avian flu was confirmed in a non-commercial, mixed-species backyard flock located in Essex County, signaling potential risks to both domestic and wild bird populations.

According to MDAR officials, the affected birds in the backyard flock exhibited sudden deaths, without displaying other typical clinical signs associated with avian flu. Samples taken from the flock tested positive for the disease, prompting swift action from animal health authorities. In response to the detection, the flock was depopulated and disposed of as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the virus.

In light of the avian influenza detection, MDAR emphasizes the importance of implementing robust biosecurity measures, especially for backyard and commercial poultry owners. The virus, known to circulate in wild bird populations, particularly wild waterfowl, poses a significant threat to domestic poultry. MDAR advises poultry owners to prevent their birds from coming into contact with wild birds, feathers, and droppings, which could serve as potential sources of infection.

Experts Worried about Animals after Avian Influenza Detected
Photo by Daniyal Ghanavati from Pexels

Eliminating standing water and restricting domestic birds’ access to ponds, streams, and wetland areas frequented by wild waterfowl are crucial steps in mitigating the risk of transmission. Implementing stringent biosecurity protocols, poultry owners can minimize the likelihood of avian influenza outbreaks and protect the health of their flocks.

The avian influenza detection extends beyond domestic poultry to include wild bird populations in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife reported instances of dead and dying wild Canada geese in Essex County and surrounding coastal areas, exhibiting symptoms consistent with avian flu. While the virus primarily affects birds, the potential impact on wildlife shows the importance of monitoring and surveillance efforts to track disease spread and mitigate its consequences.

Although human infections with avian flu viruses are rare, individuals who have prolonged close contact with infected birds face the highest risk of illness. MDAR and other health authorities advise the public to refrain from handling or feeding birds suspected of infection. Additionally, pet owners are urged to prevent their dogs from interacting with wild birds to minimize the risk of exposure to avian influenza.

Here are some key points on how avian influenza can impact human health:


Human infections with avian influenza typically occur through direct or indirect exposure to infected birds or their secretions, such as respiratory droplets or feces. Individuals who handle infected poultry, participate in bird culling activities, or work in live poultry markets are at higher risk of exposure to the virus.


The symptoms of avian influenza in humans can range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Fever,
  • Cough,
  • Sore throat,
  • Muscle aches,
  • Difficulty breathing, and
  • In severe cases, avian influenza can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), organ failure, and death.

Certain factors may increase the risk of severe illness or complications from avian influenza, including underlying medical conditions, compromised immune systems, and advanced age. Children, elderly individuals, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic health conditions are particularly vulnerable.

The detection of avian influenza in Massachusetts serves as a reminder of the ongoing threats posed by infectious diseases to animal and public health. As authorities continue to monitor the situation and implement control measures, vigilance and preparedness remain paramount. Staying informed about biosecurity practices and adhering to guidelines issued by health officials, individuals can contribute to efforts aimed at preventing the spread of avian influenza and safeguarding the well-being of both domestic animals and wildlife populations.


Animal health officials warn of avian influenza detection in Massachusetts

Avian Influenza Virus (H5N1): a Threat to Human Health

Avian flu found in Massachusetts

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  • Submission supported by positive results of a Phase III study showing immune response and tolerability in adults aged 50-59
  • Adults aged 50 and above with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for RSV disease1,2,3
  • GSK is the first company to seek regulatory approval to extend RSV vaccination to this population

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Feb. 26, 2024 /CNW/ - GSK (GlaxoSmithKline Inc.) has submitted a Supplementary New Drug Submission (SNDS) to Health Canada to expand the use of Arexvy, GSK's respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine (recombinant, AS01E adjuvanted), to include adults aged 50-59 at increased risk for RSV disease. If approved, GSK's RSV vaccine would be the first vaccine available in Canada to help protect this population.

This submission follows the August 2023 approval of Arexvy in Canada for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in adults 60 years of age and older.4 The SNDS filing is based on the positive results from a phase III trial [NCT05590403] evaluating the immune response and safety of GSK's RSV vaccine in adults aged 50-59 at increased risk for RSV lower respiratory tract disease due to underlying medical conditions.

People with underlying medical conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, chronic heart failure5 and diabetes,6 are at increased risk for RSV disease. RSV can exacerbate these conditions and lead to pneumonia, hospitalization, or death.7

GSK is the first company to file for regulatory approval to extend RSV vaccination to help protect adults aged 50 to 59 at increased risk for RSV disease due to underlying medical conditions. Regulatory submissions are also under review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). The safety and effectiveness of Arexvy in adults aged 50-59 at increased risk for RSV disease are still under investigation and authorization has not yet been granted. A Canadian regulatory decision is anticipated in the second half of 2024.

About Arexvy

Respiratory syncytial virus vaccine, adjuvanted, contains recombinant glycoprotein F stabilised in the prefusion conformation (RSVPreF3). This antigen is combined with GSK's proprietary AS01E adjuvant.

Arexvy is currently approved in Canada for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease (LRTD) caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in adults 60 years of age and older.

The vaccine has also been approved for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease (LRTD) caused by RSV in adults 60 years of age and older in the US, Europe, Japan, UK and several other countries. Regulatory reviews in multiple countries are ongoing. The proposed trade name remains subject to regulatory approval in other markets.

The GSK proprietary AS01 adjuvant system contains STIMULON QS-21 adjuvant licensed from Antigenics Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of Agenus Inc. STIMULON is a trademark of SaponiQx Inc., a subsidiary of Agenus.

About the NCT05590403 trial 

NCT05590403 is a phase III, placebo-controlled, observer-blind, randomized, multi-country immunogenicity trial to evaluate the non-inferiority of the immune response and evaluate safety in participants aged 50 to 59 at increased risk of RSV-LRTD compared to older adults aged 60 years and above after a single dose of GSK's RSV vaccine. The study assessed the immune response in participants aged 50 to 59 with pre-defined stable chronic diseases leading to an increased risk of RSV disease (n=570). Immune responses in a broader group of participants aged 50-59 years without these pre-defined chronic diseases (n=570) were also evaluated compared to adults aged 60 and older. The trial's primary endpoints were RSV-A and RSV-B neutralisation titres of both groups of 50 to 59 year olds at one month after the vaccine administration compared to adults aged 60 and older. There were also safety and immunogenicity secondary and tertiary endpoints.

Results from this trial will be presented at upcoming medical conferences and submitted for peer-reviewed publication. The data are being submitted to other regulators to support potential label expansions.

About RSV in adults

RSV is a common contagious virus affecting the lungs and breathing passages. The burden of RSV disease in adults is likely to be underestimated due to lack of awareness and standardized testing, as well as under-detection within surveillance studies.Adults can be at increased risk for RSV disease due to comorbidities, immune compromised status, or advanced age.7 RSV can exacerbate conditions, including COPD, asthma, and chronic heart failure and can lead to severe outcomes, such as pneumonia, hospitalization, and death.7 Each year, RSV causes approximatively 470,000 hospitalizations and 33,000 in-hospital deaths in adults 60 years of age and older in industrialised countries.8 Adults with underlying conditions are more likely to seek medical advice and have higher hospitalization rates than adults without these conditions.9

The Product Monograph, posted at www.ca.gsk.com, should be consulted for complete administration and safety information. 

About GSK

GSK is a global biopharma company with a purpose to unite science, technology, and talent to get ahead of disease together. Find out more at gsk.ca.



Malosh RE et al. Respiratory syncytial virus hospitalization in middle-aged and older adults. J Clin Virol. 2017; Nov:96:37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2017.09.001


Prasad N et al. Respiratory Syncytial Virus-Associated Hospitalizations Among Adults With Chronic Medical Conditions. Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Jul 1;73(1):e158-e163. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa730.


Begley KM et al. Prevalence and Clinical Outcomes of Respiratory Syncytial Virus vs Influenza in Adults Hospitalized With Acute Respiratory Illness From a Prospective Multicenter Study. Clin Infect Dis. 2023 Jun 8;76(11):1980-1988. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciad031.


Arexvy Canadian Product Monograph. Available at ca.gsk.com/en-ca/products/arexvy/


Falsey, AR et al. Respiratory syncytial virus infection in elderly and high-risk adults, in New Engl J Med 2005; 352:1749-59


Richard Osei-Yeboah et al, Respiratory syncytial virus-associated hospitalisation in adults with comorbidities in two European countries, PROMISE investigators, preprint, August 2023


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RSV in Older Adults and Adults with Chronic Medical Conditions, 2023


Savic M, Penders Y, Shi T, Branche A, Pirçon J-Y. Respiratory syncytial virus disease burden in adults aged 60 years and older in high-income countries: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis, Influenza Other Respir Viruses 2022 2023; 17:e13031


Branche AR et al. Incidence of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection Among Hospitalized Adults, 2017-2020, Clin Infect Dis 2022;74:1004–1011

SOURCE GlaxoSmithKline Inc.

For further information: GSK media enquiries: 1-855-593-6274

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During the months of January to March, a familiar trend emerges – an increase in viral infections that can leave many feeling under the weather. Common culprits like adenovirus, influenza A, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and rhino-enteroviruses are often to blame, bringing along symptoms reminiscent of a cold: runny nose, cough, fever, and fatigue. For some unlucky individuals, these symptoms may also include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

The Rise of Flu Cases

As seasons transition, flu cases tend to surge. Outpatient departments (OPD) become busy hubs as individuals seek relief from symptoms like coughing, fever, breathlessness, and persistent runny noses. Doctors strongly advocate for prioritizing immunity and adopting mask-wearing practices to curtail the spread of infections.

Identifying the Viral Culprits

The spike in infections can be attributed to a variety of viruses, including adenovirus, influenza A, RSV, and rhino-enteroviruses. These viral agents typically manifest in cold-like symptoms such as runny noses, coughs, fevers, and feelings of exhaustion. While most cases are uncomplicated, some individuals may develop complications such as ear infections, wheezing, or pneumonia, although these occurrences are less frequent.

A report from India Today sheds light on the types of viral infections prevalent in OPD visits, which often include influenza/H1N1, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Covid-19, and other circulating viruses. The increase in cases during seasonal transitions is expected, with many experiencing common symptoms like body aches, throat pain, runny noses, and dry coughs. However, it is crucial not to overlook severe infections that may require hospitalization, as they can pose serious health risks.

Viral Infections and Allergies

As winter fades between January and March, another health concern arises: seasonal allergies triggered by pollen circulation. Symptoms such as sneezing, blocked noses, watery eyes, and itchy ears become prevalent. Differentiating between allergies and infections becomes crucial during this period.

The fluctuating temperatures and pollen circulation can exacerbate nose and eye allergies, leading to wheezing in asthma patients. It’s important to note that these allergies typically do not come with a fever. Additionally, cases of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) see an increase during this season, characterized by high fever, dry or productive coughs, and shortness of breath. This type of pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or a combination of both.

Seeking Medical Attention

It is imperative to seek medical advice if experiencing symptoms of infection. Consulting a doctor can help determine the type of infection and provide appropriate treatment, which may include anti-allergy, antiviral, or antibiotic medications. It is strongly advised to avoid self-medication and the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

Tips for Maintaining Health

To navigate the challenges of seasonal viral infections and allergies, here are some tips for maintaining good health:

– Take Care of Your Body: Maintain a healthy diet and don’t pack away the warm clothing too soon.

– Consider Vaccines: Consult with your physician about getting influenza and pneumonia vaccines.

– Monitor Children: If children have a fever lasting more than two days, seek medical attention. Look out for signs of difficulty breathing or dehydration.

– Stay Home If Unwell: Prevent the spread of respiratory viruses by staying home when feeling unwell.

– Practice Good Hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to prevent spreading infectious material.

– Use a Humidifier: Adding moisture to indoor air can ease congestion.

– Get the Flu Vaccine: Especially important for those over 65, pregnant, or with weakened immune systems.

– Wash Hands Regularly: Especially before eating or touching your face.

– Balanced Diet: Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to boost immunity.

– Stay Hydrated: Drinking fluids helps flush out toxins and maintain health.

– Adequate Sleep: Ensure you get enough rest to support the immune system.

These proactive measures can go a long way in safeguarding against the seasonal onslaught of viral infections and allergies, promoting overall health and well-being. By staying informed and taking appropriate steps, individuals can navigate these challenges with resilience and vitality.

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Although the symptoms may be similar, they can be distinguished. (Illustrative Image Library)

It has been 3 years and 10 months since the first case COVID-19 in Mexico February 28, 2020. Since then, the virus has been like a see-saw, however, and concerns about a new wave of coronavirus are growing as some hospitals are stretched to the limits of their capacity in the face of apparent outbreaks. Increased infections.

During this period winterPeople tend to get sicker due to several factors that coincide with this time of year. Cold temperatures cause us to spend more time indoors, which increases the likelihood of being in close contact with other people and making it easier to spread infections. respiratory viruses Examples include the flu, the common cold, or COVID-19.

Additionally, cold, dry air weakens the natural defenses of the respiratory mucosa, making them more susceptible to infection. Lower sun exposure can also lead to lower vitamin D levels and negatively impact the immune system.

Some viruses, e.g. influenzaIn the cold, dry air of winter, their ability to survive and spread is greater, so the incidence of respiratory diseases tends to increase, which is why authorities usually carry out vaccination campaigns to reduce the incidence, especially among minors and the elderly people.

Both tend to rebound in the winter. (Illustrative Image Library)

some characteristic diseases winter They often have similarities, which makes us sometimes confused whether it’s a simple allergy, the flu, or a more serious virus.

Influenza and the illnesses caused by coronaviruses have similarities and differences. Both are contagious respiratory diseases that can spread from person to person, but they are caused by different viruses.

Influenza is caused by influenza virus Type A and Type Bwhile coronaviruses cover a broader family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe illnesses such as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), including COVID-19.19 Virus SARS-CoV-2.

In terms of symptoms, both conditions share common symptoms such as Fever, cough, and fatigue. Other symptoms may include Body aches, sore throat, congestion, and runny nose.

However, COVID-19 can be distinguished by certain characteristic symptoms (albeit dependent on the strain), e.g. Loss of taste or smell. Additionally, it often leads to more serious complications, including respiratory distress and the potential for the development of multisystem inflammatory syndromes.

In terms of transmissibility, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, especially its newer variants, has proven to be more contagious than the influenza virus; this turned into a pandemic at the time. Influenza is generally considered a seasonal epidemic.

this vaccine Vaccines exist for both diseases, and while flu vaccines are developed each year to combat the most prevalent strains of the virus that year, COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at a rapid pace due to the global health emergency and are being adapted to respond to new variant.

Recovery times also vary. (Illustrative Image Library)

As for treatment, antiviral medications are available for both conditions, but specific treatment Developed for COVID-19 or adapted in response to the virus.

he Recovery Time The flu lasts 3 to 7 days and can last up to two weeks in severe cases; in the case of the new coronavirus, its latest Pirola variant can lie dormant for two to seven days after exposure, but recovery time can vary from days to weeks. wait. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends ending isolation until you no longer have any symptoms.

Compared to influenza, past public health measures in response to COVID-19 have been far greater in scale and scope, including border closures, quarantines, and the implementation of strict health measures such as the use of masks and social distancing. Influenza, on the other hand, is mostly dealt with by: Annual vaccination campaign and standard personal hygiene measures.

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(CNN) — Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said respiratory illnesses are spreading. He singled out the rise of three viruses in particular: influenza, coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV.

Hospitalizations from the three viruses continue to increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As more people develop symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and fever, they may be wondering whether they should get tested to find out what virus is causing their symptoms. Which symptoms can be treated at home, and which symptoms should prompt people to seek medical care? Does it matter if you go to a doctor’s office or go to an urgent care or emergency room? If people haven’t been vaccinated yet, is it too late?

To help us answer these questions, I spoke with CNN health expert Dr. Leana Wen. Wen is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She previously served as Baltimore’s health commissioner.

CNN: Is it important for everyone with a runny nose, cough or fever to get tested to find out what exactly is causing their symptoms?

Dr. Wen Lina: No, this is neither practical nor necessary. In addition to the oft-mentioned “big three”: influenza, coronavirus, and respiratory syncytial virus, there are many other viruses that cause respiratory illness, such as adenovirus, rhinovirus, and parainfluenza virus. It is estimated that there are more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold and produce the symptoms of runny nose, cough, or fever mentioned above. Most people don’t need a test to determine which virus is causing their symptoms.

There are three situations in which viral testing may be recommended. First, people who are susceptible to severe illness may want to get tested for both influenza and Covid-19. There are several antiviral treatments approved for people with the flu, including Tamiflu. According to the CDC, priority groups for flu treatment include people who are at higher risk for severe illness or complications from the flu.

Likewise, Paxlovid is an oral antiviral treatment that has been approved to treat patients in the early stages of Covid-19 disease who meet the eligibility criteria. Other treatments for Covid-19 include monopiravir pills and remdesivir injections or infusions. People at risk for severe illness from coronavirus should get tested if they develop symptoms of the virus so that antiviral treatment can be started as soon as possible if confirmed.

Second, if someone lives in a household with someone who is susceptible to severe illness from either pathogen, they may want to get tested for either flu or Covid-19. For example, a healthy child attending day care may not need to be tested every time he catches a cold. However, if they live in a household where a grandparent takes immunosuppressive drugs after a kidney transplant, they should be tested more frequently if they develop symptoms of the virus.

That’s because if a child has the flu, the grandparent may be eligible to take preventive antiviral medications to reduce the chance of getting the flu. There are currently no such precautions for Covid-19, but grandparents should be aware of symptoms and take antiviral treatment if infected with coronavirus. Of course, a child showing symptoms of the virus should be isolated from his or her grandparents to reduce the chance of spreading the infection.

Third, if a person is seriously ill or has been ill for some time, they can be tested for influenza, Covid-19, RSV and other viruses. This will be part of the evaluation to find out what is causing these long-lasting, severe and/or progressive symptoms. For example, people who are seriously ill and require hospitalization may receive comprehensive viral testing as part of the hospital’s evaluation.

CNN: Is it possible for a person to test positive for multiple viruses?

arts: Yes. In a 2019 study, researchers examined more than 44,000 cases of respiratory illness in Scotland and tested for 11 viruses, including rhinovirus, coronavirus, influenza and RSV. Of all patients who tested positive for the virus, 11% were co-infected with one or more different viruses. Some patients carry as many as five viruses at the same time.

Likewise, for most people, it’s not important to know exactly what’s causing their symptoms. Treatment is generally the same and is called supportive care. This means there is no specific antiviral treatment, but rather addressing symptoms to help patients feel better. So if someone has a fever, they can take a fever-reducing medicine like Tylenol or ibuprofen. They can drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. They can rest to relieve fatigue. For influenza and Covid-19, the situation is different for specific patients who qualify for antiviral treatment; for these people, testing is most important.

CNN: Which symptoms can be treated at home, and which symptoms should prompt people to seek medical care?

arts: Most people recover fully with supportive care at home. Note that this may take some time; cold symptoms may last for more than a week, and a cough may last for several months.

Symptoms that should seek immediate medical attention include difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, severe vomiting, inability to control fluids, and persistent fever. Parents of young children should watch for symptoms of difficulty breathing, such as flaring noses, wheezing, increased respiratory rate, and blue lips. Babies are particularly susceptible to dehydration, and parents and caregivers should contact a medical professional if their child is not getting enough wet diapers.

Others who should contact their doctor early in their illness include those who are older and have serious underlying medical conditions, such as heart and lung disease. For these patients, a viral illness that may be mild in most people may exacerbate existing conditions and lead to hospitalization or more serious illness, so early and proactive follow-up is critical.

CNN: When should you go to a doctor’s office instead of an urgent care or emergency room?

arts: Urgent symptoms require urgent care in the emergency room. These include sudden, severe symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, and seizures. On the other hand, symptoms that last for several days can usually begin with an evaluation at the doctor’s office. In these cases, you can start by calling your doctor’s office. They may be able to tell you if they can see you urgently in the office or via a telemedicine visit. They may also recommend whether you should go to an urgent care or emergency room.

CNN: Can you remind us what steps people can take to avoid contracting the virus? Also, if they haven’t been vaccinated yet, is it too late?

arts: It’s not too late to get vaccinated. People who haven’t received this year’s flu vaccine or the latest Covid-19 vaccine can still get one now, as can those who are eligible for the RSV vaccine. These vaccines can reduce your chances of getting the virus and, more importantly, your chance of getting serious illness if you do get infected.

Other measures to prevent infection include washing hands frequently, staying away from people with cold symptoms and wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces.

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CHENNAI: With several construction works, developmental projects and increasing pollution, the risk of pulmonary issues and respiratory problems are worsening. Various cases of fever and influenza like illnesses are increasing at the city hospitals, which is why the health experts are emphasizing on staying cautious against environmental factors to prevent the same. The areas with higher concentrations of certain air pollutants are also seeing a surge in cases of respiratory infections, especially among children.

Children are more sensitive to adverse effects of pollutants and viral infections than adults, and studies have shown links between air pollution and a greater risk of upper and lower respiratory infections.

Dr V Vilvanathan, Senior Consultant, Paediatric Medicine, Sri Ramachandra Research Centre says, “Poor air quality can greatly affect someone’s health and I have seen an approximate 12 percent rise in patients, affected by smog and air pollution in Chennai. Many people especially, under 5 children are experiencing symptoms like breathlessness and cough – and there’s been a roughly eight percent increase in reported cases of influenza-like illnesses over the last six months. Doctors say that polluted air can not only worsen the people with Asthma and COPD but also make someone feel worse when they have the flu.

Pollutants such as gases from vehicles, pollution from burning fuels like coal and oil, construction activities and more – can harm respiratory systems and irritate airways. Poor air quality may even make people with conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease more likely to develop viral infections like the flu. It can also cause symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and chest pain.

Senior consultant pediatrician Dr Mohan Kumar says that the bacteria and viruses are already present in the environment and air pollution is worsening in the urban areas with several construction works and projects, an increase in the vehicular pollution and other expansion projects. With multiple factors contributing to these issues, past three months we have seen an increase in the sale of inhalers for people with Asthma.

Dr Jejoe Karankumar, Medical Affairs Director, Abbott India says that its important to raise awareness about the steps people can take to protect themselves against infections like flu, especially at a time when its cases are rising. Preventive care is important, and it’s vital for more people, especially those at risk, to get their yearly flu vaccination for greater protection.”

Doctors also emphasize on masking up when outdoors or staying indoors when air pollution is high, adopting good hygiene practices like washing one’s face and hands after being outside, and by getting the flu vaccine yearly to avoid infection.

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Islamabad: Influenza A infection that is more serious than the common cold may hit the population severely in this region of the country as the healthcare facilities have been receiving patients with the signs and symptoms of influenza A H1N1 and influenza A H3N2.

A woman can be seen sneezing. — Pexels
A woman can be seen sneezing. — Pexels

The concerned government authorities including the district health departments and the public sector hospitals in the region, however, have not been giving due attention to the problem, nor preparing the data regarding the number of patients and suspects of the disease being reported in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Many health experts say that it is the most appropriate time for the high risk population including elderly, pregnant women, patients with heart and lung disease and diabetics to take precautionary measures to safeguard them from influenza A infection that can cause major outbreaks and severe disease.

Data collected by ‘The News’ has revealed that both the private and the public sector healthcare facilities are receiving a good number of patients with influenza A infection while many are being suspected to have contracted influenza A H3N2 virus. It is important that seasonal ‘influenza A’ disease appears in winter every year in the months of December to February. It may assume the epidemic forms and cause considerable morbidity and mortality.

Experts say that by creating awareness among the public about various aspects of influenza A infection, its spread can be controlled and losses can be minimized. Influenza A virus causes the flu, a highly contagious respiratory illness. Different subtypes or strains of influenza A cause outbreaks and serious illnesses.

Studies reveal that influenza A infection can cause serious complications including pneumonia, breathing problems and even death particularly in the high risk groups. The disease has caused considerable morbidity and mortality in the last two decades or so. It was the influenza A H1N1 that had affected thousands of people globally in 2009. The same infection, now known as seasonal flu, has become a regular feature appearing each year for the last many years since 2011 in Pakistan and it has claimed hundreds of lives in the past years.

Influenza A infection may cause mild, moderate or severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Elderly people aged 65 years or above, pregnant women, younger children of less than two years of age, and people with certain health conditions, are at higher risk of serious flu complications.

It is important that nearly 90 per cent of all influenza A patients who do not fall in the high risk category recover well without any medical intervention. The best prevention is to follow the respiratory protocols and cover face with tissue paper while sneezing or coughing to prevent others from the infection. A patient should properly dispose of the infected or used tissues and wash hands frequently.

Experts have repeatedly expressed to ‘The News’ that influenza viruses are constantly changing themselves for their best survival and the H1N1 infection that has become less virulent in the past few years is still circulating and is capable of causing high mortality in a segment of population.

The most common symptoms of influenza A infection include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, feeling tired and weak, sneezing, sore throat and cough while a child patient may have abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting as well.

It is, however, important to mention that the virus that causes covid-19 is different from the virus that causes influenza though influenza A virus also spreads through droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, normally though coughing and sneezing.

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Bengaluru: Seasonal changes have brought about a surge in upper respiratory tract infections, particularly among children and the elderly, doctors in the city said.

Dr Ravindra Mehta, a pulmonologist at a prominent private hospital, said this increase, while not unusual, has been exacerbated by factors such as large community gatherings, extensive travel, and the return of the workforce to regular activities.

"We are observing typical flu cases, alongside instances of H1N1 and Covid infections. There has also been a rise in pneumonia cases among the elderly, leading to a surge in hospitalisations," Dr Mehta explained.

Commonly reported symptoms during this period include lingering cough, sore throat, fever, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, and chest tightness persisting for over three days.

Physicians are prescribing anti-flu and fever medications, often coupled with antibiotics, if a bacterial infection is present.

Dr Arvind Kasthuri, a community medicine specialist and chief of medical services at another private hospital, said seasonal influenza is typically prevalent from mid-November to late February. He noted that elderly individuals with compromised lung health are particularly susceptible to severe infections, though this trend is not unusual.

At a children's hospital, doctors reported a significant influx of patients exhibiting flu symptoms over the past three weeks, with some experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea. Nearly one in 10 of these cases required admission to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit for respiratory support.

Dr Vishwa Vijeth, a pulmonologist at a private clinic, stated that their facility has seen a notable 20 per cent increase in infection cases over the past month.

He advised patients to wear masks, maintain regular use of allergy medications, stay hydrated, practice steam therapy, and gargle after exposure to potential triggers.

How to take care  

Wear masks
Maintain regular use of allergy medication
Stay hydrated
Practise steam therapy
Gargle after exposure to potential triggers

(Published 24 February 2024, 01:05 IST)

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Here’s our weekly round-up of what illnesses are spreading the most in Metro Detroit communities, according to our local doctors and hospitals.

Wayne County – Influenza, bacterial pneumonia, stomach viruses, Covid, upper respiratory infections

Dr. Kevin Dazy -- Children’s Hospital of Michigan Pediatrician

We’re still seeing a good number of influenza cases, and in some children it’s evolving into bacterial pneumonia. Those kids need antibiotics. It worries me when I’m seeing otherwise healthy kids who require hospitalization when their influenza turns into pneumonia. It’s rare, but we have a number of kids hospitalized with it.  In the last week there has been more gastroenteritis – nausea, vomiting and diarrhea – separate from influenza. We see that sporadically throughout the year, but we’re seeing a significant number of children with it right now. The vast majority of time, there’s not much we can do other than to ensure they are hydrated.

Dr. Dan Taylor -- Chief of Emergency Medicine, DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital

We’re seeing a lot of flu: probably a lot of Flu B, switching over from Flu A. We’re back to a normal flu pattern, it looks like. Injuries – we always have those, but nothing out of the ordinary. And we always have our share of cardiac disease, strokes. As the weather gets better, we’ll have increased numbers generally as people get out and about.

Dr. Jennifer Stevenson -- Emergency Department, Henry Ford Medical Center Fairlane

There’s still influenza and COVID-19 in the community and we continue to see patients that require hospitalization as a result. There’s also a viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) as well as many viral (but non-COVID-19/influenza) upper respiratory infections going around. Again, I recommend that people wear masks in public when they have URI symptoms to protect our community.  Hand washing also is super important to prevent the spread of stomach flu.

Dr. Asha Shajahan -- Family medicine physician, Corewell Health’s Beaumont Hospital Grosse Pointe

“We are still seeing flu and COVID, along with knee/back/joint pain and arthritis, especially as the weather and temperatures fluctuate. As people are beginning to see spring around the corner, we are seeing a lot of requests, an average of four a day, requesting the new and effective weight loss medications.”

Oakland County – Stomach viruses, bronchiolitis, RSV, upper respiratory viruses, influenza, Covid, allergy & asthma flare-ups

Dr. Rena Daiza -- Primary Care Physician, Henry Ford Medical Center Bloomfield Twp.

“I am currently seeing cases of bronchiolitis, a viral illness (sometimes caused by RSV) that occurs mostly in children but can also affect older adults. Adults over 60 can receive a single dose of RSV vaccine, while recommendations for infants is either via monoclonal antibody or having the mother immunized during pregnancy.”

Sarah Rauner, RN -- Chief pediatric nurse practitioner, Corewell Health’s Beaumont Hospital Troy

“We are seeing an increase in viral gastroenteritis. This can be a combination of vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, decreased appetite and/or fever. This is particularly difficult in little ones. Also, we’re continuing to see viral upper respiratory infections, including influenza and COVID. As our weather fluctuates, we’re seeing individuals who are experiencing some allergy and asthma issues as well. There have been a lot of children battling back-to-back illnesses, as the sick season enters its last few weeks (hopefully).”

Emergency Department, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital

“We have had a lot of behavioral health patients this week in the ED. There also were a lot of pains that were mostly abdominal and weakness/fatigue.”

Washtenaw County– Influenza, Covid, upper respiratory infections, stomach viruses

Dr. Brad Uren -- Clinical Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Michigan Medicine

“Noticeable uptick in flu cases this week. Still some COVID. Few other URIs. Some GI but not a lot.”

Dr. Marisa Louie -- Medical Director of Children’s Emergency Services, Michigan Medicine

“We have had an increase in patients in general. Still seeing quite a bit of flu as well as COVID.”

Washtenaw County Health Department

“Influenza cases in Washtenaw County residents are currently at high levels. Most Influenza cases being reported in Washtenaw County are Influenza A, types A(H1N1) and A(H3). Sporadic cases of Influenza B are being reported.  Influenza-related deaths in Washtenaw County adults have been reported this flu season. All individuals were older adults with confirmed Influenza A infection.  Flu-related hospitalizations of Washtenaw residents are currently at high levels.”

Monroe County – Upper respiratory viruses, pneumonia, stomach viruses

Dr. Spencer Johnson -- ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital – Emergency Center

“Currently, we are still seeing a fair amount of viral URI, along with pneumonia. There also seems to be a good deal of viral GI illness within the community. The best practice is excellent hand hygiene and staying home when ill.”

Macomb County – Upper respiratory viruses, influenza, Covid, RSV, asthma flare-ups, weather-related falls

Dr. Joseph Flynn -- Emergency physician at McLaren Macomb

“Continuing to be reported in high volumes viral upper respiratory infections (including RSV, influenza, and COVID-19) continue to be the most common reason patients are seeking care in the emergency department, presenting with fever, persistent cough, body aches, and fatigue. The vast majority of patients do not present with severe symptoms, and they can be discharged following treatment.  Viral URIs have been complicating asthma sufferers’ conditions, exacerbating breathing complications.  Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea continue to be treated in patients suffering from viral gastroenteritis. Wintery conditions have resulted in falls and many patients suffering a traumatic orthopedic injury, mainly to the extremities, but also some head injuries.”

Dr. Anthony Colucci -- Medical director at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital’s emergency department

“Flu and COVID-19 are still being seen in our ED.”

Dr. Dhairya Kiri -- Primary Care Physician, Henry Ford Medical Center Richmond

“We are seeing a significant increase in Influenza A cases in clinic this week.”

Livingston County -- Respiratory viruses, COVID

Copyright 2024 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.

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The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency has recommended the approval of two vaccines for active immunization against the H5N1 subtype of the influenza A virus, which causes avian influenza or bird flu

Celldemic is a zoonotic H5N1 influenza vaccine intended for active immunization of adults and infants from 6 months of age in the event of influenza outbreaks originating from animals, including situations where public health authorities foresee a potential pandemic.

Incellipan is a pandemic preparedness H5N1 vaccine and is intended for deployment solely upon the official declaration of a flu pandemic. After identifying the virus strain responsible, the manufacturer can incorporate it into the authorized vaccine. They then need to seek authorization for that vaccine as the "final" pandemic vaccine. The accelerated authorization process for the final pandemic vaccine is facilitated by the prior assessment of its quality, safety, and efficacy with other potential pandemic strains.

Most cases of avian influenza in humans have been due to transmission from birds. But there has also been transmission from other sources, such as a contaminated environment. Whereas some avian viruses do not cause disease in humans or are known to only cause mild disease, others, like the H5N1 subtype of the influenza A virus, are known to cause severe disease or even death. 

Symptoms range from asymptomatic or mild cases, with conjunctivitis or mild flulike upper respiratory symptoms, to severe conditions requiring hospitalization, such as pneumonia. Commonly reported symptoms include fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Less frequent symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or seizures.

Celldemic will be available as a 7.5-µg per 0.5-mL dose suspension for injection. It comprises hemagglutinin and neuraminidase surface antigens purified from inactivated A/turkey/Turkey/1/2005 (H5N1)-like strain (NIBRG 23) viruses produced in MDCK cell cultures, along with the adjuvant M59C.1. 

Celldemic induces a strong immune response in adults and children 3 weeks after 2 doses, administered at a 3-week interval, as measured by hemagglutination inhibition titers against H5N1. Common side effects in adults include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, malaise, myalgia, and arthralgia. In children aged 6-18 years, prevalent side effects include injection site pain, myalgia, fatigue, malaise, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, and arthralgia. In children 6 months to less than 6 years old, tenderness at the injection site, irritability, sleepiness, changes in eating habits, and fever are the most common side effects.

Incellipan will be offered as a 7.5-µg per 0.5 mL dose suspension for injection. Similar to Celldemic, it contains hemagglutinin and neuraminidase surface antigens purified from inactivated A/turkey/Turkey/1/2005 (H5N1)-like strain (NIBRG 23) viruses produced in MDCK cell cultures and the adjuvant M59C.1. 

Incellipan also triggers a robust immune response in adults and children 3 weeks after 2 doses administered with a 3-week interval, measured by hemagglutinin inhibition titers against H5N1. Common side effects align with those of Celldemic, including pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, malaise, myalgia, arthralgia, and other age-specific reactions.

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As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health restrictions are relaxed, the circulation of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) alongside other respiratory viruses may lead to an increased likelihood of coinfection (1). Older patients face a higher risk of severe outcomes, when infected with multiple respiratory viruses (2). This study highlights the successful recovery of the oldest older adult (≥80 years) from pneumonia caused by the dual infection of human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) and SARS-CoV-2.

On May 18, 2023, an 86-year-old male patient with a medical history of hypertension, prostate cancer, and prior SARS-CoV-2 vaccination was admitted to the single ward of the Department of Geriatrics, First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine. The patient presented with symptoms of cough and shortness of breath that started three days prior to admission. On May 19, a chest computed tomography (CT) scan revealed acute inflammation in both lungs (Supplementary Figure S1A). On May 20 (Admission day 2), the patient developed a fever. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and metagenomic next-generation sequencing (mNGS) confirmed the patient’s positive status for the HRSV-B subtype and SARS-CoV-2 (reinfection). The patient received treatment including high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy, aerosol inhalation of ipratropium bromide, budesonide, acetylcysteine, and other symptomatic care and excellent nursing service. His respiratory symptoms significantly improved, and a positron emission tomography/CT (PET/CT) scan on May 24 a showed notable reduction in lung inflammation (Supplementary Figure S1B). The patient fully recovered after a 13-day hospital stay. Table 1 displays all the clinical symptoms and signs.

Table 1. 
Symptoms and results of pathogenic testing in the case of an elderly man with dual infection of HRSV and SARS-CoV-2 virus in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in May 2023.

The patient’s sputum was collected on May 20 at the hospital and a respiratory viral panel using RT-PCR confirmed the presence of HRSV, while influenza A and B viruses were not detected. Several swab samples and sputum were collected from May 20 to May 30, and sent to Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The median duration of HRSV shedding was found to be 11 days (Supplementary Figure S2). The HRSV strain identified in this patient was identified as HRSV-B. Sputum collected on May 24 tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, while samples collected on May 26, 28, and 29 tested positive (Supplementary Figure S2). A follow-up RT-PCR test for COVID-19 conducted on June 10 yielded a negative result. A sputum sample collected on May 29 was subjected to mNGS analysis. The results revealed the presence of 85 reads for HRSV, 13,471 reads for SARS-CoV-2, and 60 reads for Aspergillus fumigatus (Table 1).

To further investigate the transmission of HRSV in this elderly case, we collected throat swabs from two medical workers, one bedside caregiver, and 40 inpatients on the same floor. All 43 samples tested negative for HRSV using RT-PCR, except for the sample from the bedside caregiver. The caregiver, a 23-year-old woman without symptoms and no personal protective equipment (PPE), tested positive for HRSV-B on May 24 (Ct value =32.0) (Supplementary Figure S3). She had received a SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.

We also took five swabs from the ward environment on May 20, and one swab collected from the bathroom tested positive for HRSV (Ct value =36.8) (Supplementary Figure S3).

We obtained the second hypervariable region (HVR2) sequences of the HRSV G gene from the elderly patient, the bedside caregiver, and one positive environmental sample. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that all three sequences belonged to the HRSV B/BA9 genotype, with 99.68% amino acid sequence similarity.

Previous studies have shown that older patients with multiple respiratory pathogens are at a higher risk of experiencing worse outcomes (24). However, this case report describes a rare coinfection of HRSV-B/BA9 and SARS-CoV-2 in the oldest known patient, which did not necessarily increase the clinical severity, but instead prolonged the hospital stay (13 days vs. 7 days) (5). This finding can be explained by several factors. First, the patient in this case was diagnosed with HRSV infection two days after admission, enabling early initiation of proper treatment and receiving excellent healthcare services from a highly skilled professional team. Second, infections with HRSV-B genotype typically have lower disease severity scores compared to HRSV-A infections (67). Lastly, the patient in this case experienced a reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 six months after the initial natural infection and vaccination against SARS-CoV-2, which can provide protection against severe SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19-related death (89).

This study has important implications for public health policies. First, older patients should take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to respiratory viruses and prevent the spread of respiratory infections. This includes measures such as isolation in a single room, adherence to hand hygiene and PPE by healthcare workers, and caregivers. Second, early and accurate multi-etiologic diagnosis, along with prompt antiviral and symptomatic treatment, should be prioritized in order to improve clinical outcomes in older patients. Lastly, our study highlights the need to increase vaccination coverage for preventable respiratory infections, including influenza, SARS-CoV-2, HRSV, etc., in order to reduce morbidity and mortality among the elderly population.

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Jul. 5—As COVID-19 cases waned in Eastern Washington, influenza made its return.

Seven people died from influenza in Spokane County during this most recent flu season, typically from early October through the end of May.

Spokane Regional Health District reported on June 14 that there were 77 confirmed influenza hospitalizations within Spokane County during the recent flu season. This time last year, the report had one hospitalization in the county during the prior season, and no one had died from influenza.

"We definitely have seen a return of flu season as people have begun to transition into a more pre-COVID lifestyle," said SRHD spokeswoman Kelli Hawkins.

"However, numbers are far from reaching pre-pandemic levels."

Six long-term care facilities in Spokane County had outbreaks of the flu in the 2021-22 period.

Public health officials attribute such factors as mask-wearing, social distancing, better hand hygiene and children not in school during the coronavirus pandemic as key reasons that flu rates were so low for 2020-21.

Hawkins said that based on information from regional epidemiologists, public health officials don't know a lot about asymptomatic flu cases, mainly because only tested cases are reported.

"What we do know, and what people should be aware of, is that you can be contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick," Hawkins said. "So, if you are exposed to someone who had the flu, you should be aware that you could be contagious before you actually experience symptoms and could potentially expose others who are at risk of severe symptoms."

Those people at risk include pregnant women, those older than 50, young children and those with chronic medical conditions.

"This does make getting vaccinated for the flu every year important not only for your own well-being, but for those who may be potentially exposed before you realize you're contagious," Hawkins said.

Influenza cases were much higher during the 2017-19 periods. Statewide, 296 laboratory-confirmed influenza deaths were reported for the 2017-18 season, and 245 in 2018-19, reported the state Department of Health.

Most deaths occurred in people with underlying health conditions, or in people with no pre-existing conditions but who were elderly.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of certain symptoms that can include fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and extreme fatigue.

During this recent season, the district was aware of many cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, among children. However, RSV is not a reportable virus, so SRHD doesn't have county-level data for it.

"Anecdotally, we have received reports of increased respiratory illnesses, including RSV, that we typically see this time of year among children," Hawkins said.

The CDC does have some data at the state level for RSV.

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Feb. 21—RITZVILLE — Adams County Health Officer Alex Brzezny gave an update during the Adams County Commissioners and Board of Health meeting Feb. 14 on several ongoing trends for illnesses and diseases in the county and the region.

"The overarching message to take home is there's still a lot of influenza out there," Brzezny said. "(Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is fairly low right now in our area. COVID is higher than influenza and plateauing, maybe decreasing, but nationally, the picture is that everything is declining and less people are in the hospitals."

Brzezny, who also serves as Grant County's Health Officer, talked about the COVID trends in the county.

"It's fair to say that when you compare it to say the '21-22 trends, it's more resembling the prior one, '22-23. So it's not necessarily a season for COVID that will be worse than the last year, and we're kind of seeing similarities there," he said. "We have seen a significant rise; like two weeks ago, we had like 30 plus cases of COVID in our county in a week, and then we dropped down to 18, so we can go from 30 to 18, we have an outbreak, we have a bunch of people get sick, and then we don't. So it's harder for us to (track) it. (Grant County) is no better. This is only what we can track because very few people are reporting."

Influenza also has a presence, currently.

"Influenza in general peaked towards the end of the year, and then it's been decreasing since then," Brzezny said. "So influenza, we're not seeing as much influenza, even though recently, again, the last week or two in Adams County I've seen reports of eight to 10 cases of influenza a week. So we are still seeing that. When you see eight cases of influenza in a small county like ours, that means there's much more influenza out there."

Brzezny said the other primary respiratory illness, RSV, is trending down and is not much of a threat to public safety. He also provided some context on the difference between the three main respiratory illnesses and their danger.

"The national statistics on the number of RSV deaths in adults is about 10 to 12,000 deaths a year, and influenza is about 30 to 40,000 and COVID is like 60 to 80,000," Brzezny said. "So you've got these three diseases, RSV being about 15 to 20% of the deaths of all diseases combined, with influenza taking about 30 to 40% and then 50% or more is COVID."

Brzezny said the danger of COVID presents a challenge when it comes to getting the public to get vaccines.

"You have something that has almost 10 times more deaths, like COVID compared to flu, and the immunizations against COVID are at about 7% in our county," he said. "But 7% of our residents decided to vaccinate this year, and be up to date on the COVID vaccine versus the 25% to 30% for influenza, for a disease that is that is about 10 times deadlier, at least based on the count that we have, and for a vaccine that's about 10 to 20% more effective than influenza vaccine."

The challenge extends to other vaccines too, Brzezny said, which is further challenged by low supply of COVID prescription treatments such as Paxlovid.

"There were times in the past, before COVID, where 80 90% of people were vaccinated against influenza," he said. "They were you know, really high numbers and then ... this year we get like 60 to 70%. It's like, why? what happened there? Is it the fatigue, people are just getting tired of it? Then the COVID vaccinations, it's really challenging to see a disease that has so much impact, and we have a vaccine for it, but the Paxlovid is almost impossible to find."

Gabriel Davis may be reached at [email protected]. Download the Columbia Basin Herald app on iOS and Android.

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Our birth month might be more than just a date on the calendar, it could also potentially dictate our susceptibility to flu. A US study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has discovered an intriguing correlation between a child’s birth month and their likelihood of contracting the flu. The findings suggest that children born in October are the least likely to get the flu, while November-born individuals have a higher risk of getting the flu.

Unpacking the Study

The research analyzed data from over 35,000 individuals who had tested positive for the flu over a 10-year period. The aim was to identify whether the timing of birth could affect the body’s immune response to the flu virus. The results were fascinating: November-born individuals were found to have a weaker immune response. Conversely, those born in October seemed to have a stronger defense mechanism against the flu.

This ground-breaking research prompts further investigation into the underlying reasons for this pattern. Could it be linked to maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy, exposure to germs in the first few months of life, or perhaps other environmental factors? The answer seems to be a complex interplay of various factors which still needs further exploration.

Implications for Flu Prevention Strategies

This study could have significant implications for flu prevention strategies and vaccination schedules for children. The findings not only highlight the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu but also offer insights into the optimal timing for vaccination, especially for those born in November.

Furthermore, understanding the link between birth month and flu susceptibility could provide healthcare providers with crucial information to personalize patient care. By foreseeing potential vulnerabilities, they could strategize the best preventive measures for each individual.

Understanding Respiratory Viruses and Prevention Measures

Respiratory viruses, including the flu, are a common cause of illness, particularly in communal environments like day care centers. A narrative review conducted to understand the most significant respiratory viruses in these settings found that five viruses – rhinovirus, influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, coronavirus, and adenovirus – were responsible for 95% of respiratory infections.

The review highlighted the impact of respiratory infections on absenteeism in day care centers, the elevated risk of contracting COVID-19 for childcare workers, and the potential economic and health benefits of reducing recurrent respiratory infections through better prevention measures. This underlines the crucial need for robust prevention strategies, including vaccination and good hygiene practices, to manage and minimize the impact of these infections.

Final Thoughts

While more research is needed to understand the exact reasons behind the link between birth month and flu susceptibility, the current findings certainly offer a fresh perspective. The potential to incorporate birth month into flu prevention strategies could revolutionize how we approach vaccination and disease prevention. Until then, regardless of when we are born, let’s continue to prioritize good hygiene practices and timely vaccinations to keep the flu at bay.

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When we think of the flu, the image that often comes to mind is people bundled up in coats, scarves, and hats.

However, the flu is not exclusive only to the colder months. The less common summer flu can still pose a significant health risk.

“It may not be what we think of while lounging at the pool, but there is a chance that at some point during summer, you could be down with the flu,” commented Bronwyn Ragavan, brand manager for Karvol.

Contrary to popular belief, flu viruses are not strictly confined to the colder seasons. The summer flu is typically caused by different strains of influenza viruses compared to those responsible for winter outbreaks.

The misconception that flu only thrives in cold weather may lead to a lack of awareness and precautions during summer.

As with winter flu, summer flu shares many of the same symptoms. The usual signs include fever, body aches, fatigue, cough, sore throat, and respiratory distress, however, the intensity and duration of symptoms may vary. 

Ragavan added that during summer, many confuse their flu-like symptoms for allergies which is why it is important to not ignore these symptoms but to find out what is causing them. If someone does fall ill with a summer flu, rest and hydration are crucial components of recovery.

Over-the-counter medications can help alleviate symptoms. Karvol is perfect to help reduce congestion with ingredients such as aromatic oils like eucalyptus, camphor, thymol, lavender and menthol which when released actively work together to help with the symptoms of congestion, providing easy breathing and a clear head.

Preventing the summer flu involves adopting a combination of general health practices and specific precautions.

Here are some key strategies:

  • Hand hygiene: Practicing regular hand-washing and using hand sanitisers can help prevent the spread of flu viruses, especially in crowded places.
  • Respiratory hygiene: Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and disposing of tissues properly can prevent the transmission of respiratory viruses.
  • Avoiding crowded places: Limiting exposure to crowded areas, where viruses can easily spread, can reduce the risk of contracting the summer flu.
  • Boosting immunity: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep, can strengthen the immune system and enhance resistance to infections.

“The summer flu may seem unexpected, but understanding their causes and taking preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of infection. Staying vigilant, practising good hygiene, and adopting a healthy lifestyle are key components of a comprehensive approach to managing the summer flu. By debunking the myth that flu is solely a winter concern, individuals can better protect themselves from these seasonal illnesses,” Ragavan concluded. 

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GABORONE, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Botswana has recorded an increase in the number of people with influenza-like illness and COVID-19 in its facilities, a government official said in a statement released Wednesday.

Over the past four weeks, cases of influenza-like illness have ranged from 5,300 to 8,627 per week, while cases of COVID-19 have ranged from two to 41 per week, said Christopher Nyanga, chief public relations officer for the Ministry of Health.

The ministry has asked the public to be vigilant and protect themselves by following hand hygiene protocols, seeking medical attention if they have a fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, or difficulty breathing, and observing physical distancing measures and wearing masks.

Nyanga said the situation is under control, and the ministry will continue to monitor the situation closely and take appropriate action as needed.

He also advised the public to stay informed through credible sources of information. Enditem

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Dr Rachel Clarke is a palliative care doctor and writer – the ITV drama ‘Breathtaking’ is based on her memoir.

The reaction to the first episode of the ITV drama Breathtaking, based on my memoir of the pandemic, has been phenomenal. There has been an outpouring of comments from NHS colleagues who feel as though the public is bearing witness to what they went through in hospitals.

Some of the comments are absolutely heart-breaking. Monday night’s episode focused on the lack of PPE [personal protective equipment] and the devastating effect it had on staff, and I’ve read so many comments from people saying “this happened to me on my ward”, “managers wouldn’t give us any PPE”, “we bought masks from B&Q and were told we had to take them off”.

It was just incredible to read those responses.

In a way, that was almost what motivated me more than anything: that simple desire to show the public what really happened in the early days of the pandemic and what NHS staff really endured.

One review described the episode as “a punch in the face”. We [Clarke co-wrote the three-part show with Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio and actor Prasanna Puwanarajah – both former doctors] wanted that kind of reaction, but not in any sense gratuitously.

We were not setting out to shock the public unnecessarily, but there is no way to depict the pandemic inside a hospital that is both authentic and easy to watch. That wouldn’t do justice to the experience.

For the first episode in particular, we wanted to convey the bewilderment, fear, trauma, and uncertainty of staff as the early days of the pandemic unfolded. It was like a punch in the face for us.

Every day you came to work most of us knew, I certainly did, that you were not getting the right PPE. You knew there wasn’t enough to protect you. You knew you were surrounded by patients who were breathing out this virus that could infect you, kill you, that you could bring home to your families.

The hardest thing was the constantly changing guidance, which we knew full well was not even remotely based on the science. It was based on the size of the PPE stockpile, which was woefully inadequate.

Instead of NHS England being honest with us about that, they pretended they could justify not giving us the right PPE. And that was a grave misjudgement on their part as it meant staff felt they were being thrown to the wolves.

HTM TELEVISION FOR ITV/ITVX BREATHTAKING EARLY RELEASE IMAGES NO EMBARGO Pictured: JOANNE FROGGATT as Abbey. This image is under copyright and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes in your print or online publication. This image cannot be syndicated to any other third party. Copyright ITV For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com 07909906963
Joanne Froggatt as Dr Abbey Henderson in ‘Breathtaking’. Dr Clarke says ‘the majority of what you see on screen is what I personally experienced, witnessed and heard’ (Photographer: Nick Wall/ITV)

In Monday’s episode you saw an A&E consultant peeling off a sticker from a box of masks and discovering that NHS England has hastily covered up the expiry date on the box, which is 2016 – four years before the pandemic.

When we discovered this was going on it was terrifying, because you felt as if you were clearly expendable and no-one cared if you lived or died. There was a real sense of helplessness.

In Reading Hospital, close to where I worked in Oxford, a doctor sent emails begging his managers for even paper masks for his ward, because he knew his team was probably being exposed to Covid.

And he was told “no, you’re not getting any” and to stop emailing them – and he died from Covid he caught on his ward [The Royal Berkshire NHS Trust began a serious incident investigation after Dr Peter Tun, who specialised in helping patients with brain conditions recover, died on 13 April, 2020]. That kind of thing was happening everywhere.

When I went for a “fit test” for a proper FFP3 mask, there’s a big hood which you see on screen where Abbey is told “you’ve failed your test” but it’s because the PPE is designed for men, for male jaws, not female ones. I didn’t even get a proper fit test. There was no hood, nothing.

There was a person who handed me a mask saying “put this on, breathe out vigorously and tell me if you can feel any air on your cheeks”.

I said: “This isn’t a fit test. Where’s the hood? Where’s the proper equipment?” I was told you didn’t need any of that anymore and to not to worry about it. I knew that wasn’t true. It just made you feel you were being lied to. I had colleagues asking me to witness them signing their wills in case they died, because they were so frightened.

One of the most important failings on behalf of state and government dates to 2016 when we had Operation Cygnus – the influenza pandemic rehearsal plan which [then health secretary] Jeremy Hunt oversaw.

The recommendations of that were very clear: we needed a proper PPE stockpile, which didn’t exist. We didn’t have the right masks. We only had PPE relevant for a flu pandemic not a coronavirus pandemic. That meant come 2020 we essentially had nothing. That is a direct result of austerity.

It costs money to buy PPE and rather than act on the recommendations of that exercise the government clearly decided that NHS staff were not worth spending that money on. We were left unprotected. It directly led to my colleagues dying in 2020 because the government did not care enough about us. They had the temerity and hypocrisy to stand on the steps of No 10 clapping NHS staff and describing us as heroes.

The horror of the early weeks was that we could all see this coming. We were terrified at the lack of response from government. In January 2020 the editor of the Lancet, Richard Horton, posted in very clear terms about Covid-19, as it became known, describing how worried he was about the virus and I followed its progress from then on.

We all followed what was happening in China from January onwards. Then the next month, when we saw what was happening in Italy, that was the time when I started to feel sick and lie awake at night worrying about what was coming. It was clear that if this thing had already spread to Italy it was on our doorstep.

In mid-February, I had the worst infection I’ve ever had in my life. I was in bed for a week and couldn’t stop coughing. For about a month I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without clutching the banister.

I tried to get a Covid test from Public Health England, explaining that I worked in a hospice with palliative care patients, that if I have Covid I could infect them and kill them, but was told I didn’t fit the criteria. They didn’t want to waste a test on me.

Joanne Froggatt’s character [Dr Abbey Henderson] in Breathtaking goes through a large number of experiences I went through personally. They’re carefully anonymised and some of them are based on the collective first-hand experience of medical and nursing colleagues of mine. But the majority of what you see on screen is what I personally experienced, witnessed and heard. Some of the dialogue Jo speaks is verbatim what I was saying at the time.

I felt very strongly that we needed to get this show broadcast before the Covid inquiry has concluded its investigation. The urgency for me was also intimately related to the degree of historical revisionism that is already going on regarding the pandemic.

There are many people, including sitting MPs, who assert that lockdowns did more harm than good, that the NHS was never overwhelmed, Covid was a very mild virus, and we should never have responded in the way we did. I think that is a gross misrepresentation of what actually happened.

The NHS was overwhelmed. Care was rationed. People died because they couldn’t get a ventilator or an ambulance.

They died because we couldn’t diagnose their cancer because we were so overwhelmed coping with Covid. If we allow a revisionist version of those facts to take hold, we are encouraging governments in the future to make the same mistakes again and respond too sluggishly and without sufficient concern.

Part of getting this drama out was ensuring the public is not turning a blind eye to what happened. It is hard to look at, hard to confront, hard to watch. But we have to watch it if we want to minimise the number of people who die in the next pandemic.

Dr Clarke with her ‘Breathtaking’ co-writers Jed Mercurio, left, and actor Prasanna Puwanarajah, both former doctors

Crucially, for me, I’m very aware that many of the thousands and thousands of people who have been bereaved by Covid and all the thousands of NHS staff who remain deeply traumatised by what they went through, or who have severe long Covid to this day, feel very abandoned by society.

I think we have a duty to all those people to look head on at what they endured, to remember it and, almost as mark of respect, to acknowledge their stories. It’s incredibly painful to have gone through something so traumatic and feel society doesn’t want to know about it.

It is hard to move on from trauma and the country as a whole has been through such a traumatic experience. We have all lost something in the pandemic: our health, wellbeing, lives. And I think collectively we are witnessing a desire to pretend to ourselves we can just move on, but the truth is Covid has not gone away.

One hundred people are still dying from Covid every week – that is the main cause of death on their death certificate. People are severely disabled by long Covid and we don’t properly understand yet what the virus does to our brain, blood vessels, to every organ of our body. This is an ongoing problem.

The grief and post-traumatic stress symptoms that patients and NHS staff are enduring is still alive and a current issue.

I find it astonishing that the Government is on the one hand exercised about the fact that about two million people are registered as long-term unemployed and yet they are not investing resources into the psychological and physical support that so many people need post-Covid. It’s a remarkable disconnect.

In January 2021 I developed panic attacks for the first time in my life. I was literally trembling, couldn’t breathe and felt as if I was dying. I was driving to work the first time I had one.

Mentally I was moving towards the hospital and physically my body entered such a traumatised state that I had to pull over to the side of the road. I sought psychological support, which I was very lucky to get. There are many NHS staff who would dearly like that support now and they can’t get it, which is another travesty.

I needed those sessions to get over what I had experienced. I feel as though I’ve done that now, but like many colleagues if I talk about Covid I will start to cry. The tears are very close to the surface.

That’s the case for everyone who worked on a Covid ward or with Covid patients. It’s hard to explain really. We witnessed so much dying, over and over again, with all the haunting barriers of masks and PPE and the devastation of family members not being able to be there at the bedside. None of us ever expected to endure those conditions.

The worst period for me was the run-up to Christmas 2021 when the Omicron variant was ravaging the country. We went through this horrific period when Boris Johnson was telling the country we were “following the science” as hospitals filled up with Covid patients.

This wave was rising up like before, but it was so much worse than first time round as this time we knew exactly what needed to happen, but the same mistakes were being made in exactly the same way. And we were utterly powerless to stop it.

At times my distress was so extreme I remember saying to my husband that it felt like something cancerous inside me and I just couldn’t bear it. It hurt me, physically, to know this was coming.

And then the grief in January 2021 of once more going from dying patient to dying patient doing the best you could for them… which was not even remotely enough to save their lives.

And knowing they didn’t have to be there. This person who was suffocating in front of you today might not be suffocating if different political decisions had been made, if we had a prime minister who was responsible enough to make the hard decisions instead of the popular ones – that was so corrosive to me.

There were times when I thought I just couldn’t carry on because it was hurting too much. The only way I could do it was bully myself to carry on. Every day when I was driving to work I used to play a song, “Heart of Courage”, from the film Gladiator, this rallying music to help me go to work.

It sounds pathetic – it is pathetic – but I just had to tell myself “don’t you dare be self-pitying and think of yourself, you have a job to do and you are damn well going to do the best job you can for patients”.

At work, the only way I could get through the day was by only focusing on the patient in front of me: what do they need and how can I help them? Nothing else matters. But often at the end of every day, I’d have to pull over by the side of the road on my way home and cry.

We are not even slightly ready for the next pandemic and we’re still in the current one anyway. Contrary to what some people claim, the World Health Organisation has not declared the Covid pandemic over. We are still experiencing morbidity and mortality due to Covid.

Not only are we not ready for the next pandemic, but the Government and NHS England have not even learned from this one that we’re still occupying. We still do not have proper masks on hospital wards. We still have the pitifully inadequate paper masks, even though the evidence is insurmountable that we should get [most protective] FFP3 masks. We still can’t find them.

Staff and patients are still being put at risk every day because hospitals have not been fitted out with proper ventilation systems, because the Government has chosen not to spend the money on making hospitals safe. That, in the context of a Covid death toll of over 233,000 people, isn’t just unforgiveable, I think it’s grotesque.

Breathtaking airs on ITV1 between 19-21 February and is available on ITVX

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With Canada’s colder weather comes respiratory virus season, with flus and RSV circulating alongside the COVID-19 virus that remains with us. While Canadians learned a lot about how to protect themselves from illness over the course of the pandemic, new information released by health care practitioners can help inform decisions, from availability of flu shots to any changes in COVID protocols.

We’ll be publishing an update on respiratory virus season each week. Looking for more information on the topic that you don’t see here? Email [email protected] to see if we can help you.

Open this photo in gallery:

A dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is displayed at a high school in Vashon Island, Wash., on May 15, 2019.Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press

The latest news

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the respiratory virus season is past its peak, but that it isn’t over, meaning it’s still important to take protective measures to prevent the spread of illness.
  • At least five cases of measles have been confirmed in Canada so far this year, raising concern about the possibility of outbreaks because of lower vaccination rates. The five cases include an infant currently in the hospital who appears to have become infected on an international trip, according to Toronto Public Health. Measles no longer spreads in Canada, but when cases are introduced from out-of-country travel they have the potential to spread and lead to outbreaks. Vaccination rates need to be at 95 per cent to ensure community protection, but those have been slipping since the pandemic. For instance, only 74 per cent of seven-year-olds in Alberta had two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in 2022, down from 80 per cent in 2019.

Flu shots

Flu shot clinics and programs are ramping up across the country, and appointments are being made available for anyone six months or older. Find out about clinics and availability for each of the provinces and territories here:

Newfoundland; Prince Edward Island; Nova Scotia; New Brunswick; Quebec; Ontario; Manitoba; Saskatchewan; Alberta; British Columbia; Yukon; Northwest Territories; Nunavut

COVID boosters

The three authorized vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax, protect against the XBB.1.5 subvariant of COVID-19 and should provide good protection against the related EG.5 family. The reformulated mRNA shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are approved for anyone six months or older. Novavax’s shot is approved for those 12 and up.

COVID-19 vaccine information for the provinces and territories can be found here:

Newfoundland; Prince Edward Island; Nova Scotia; New Brunswick; Quebec; Ontario; Manitoba; Saskatchewan; Alberta; British Columbia; Yukon; Northwest Territories; Nunavut

Flu outlook in Canada

Flu activity in Canada is at or below expected levels for this time of year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s most recent FluWatch report. B.C. and Ontario are the only regions that reported widespread flu activity during the week that ended Feb. 10.

From Aug. 27 to Feb. 10, there were 3,606 flu-related hospital admissions reported to PHAC, with people 65 or older accounting for 49 per cent of them. Adults 65 or older and children under five have the highest rates of hospital admissions for the flu in Canada.

PHAC changed the way it collects pediatric flu data this season. So far, it has not released data on intensive-care-unit admissions or flu-related deaths in children in Canada.

During the week that ended Feb. 10, there were 30 flu-related hospital admissions in children. So far this season, 577 children have been admitted to hospital as a result of influenza, according to PHAC.

Hospitalization for COVID

According to PHAC, COVID-19 activity is stable or decreasing across the country. During the week that ended Feb. 14, there were 2,825 patients in hospital as a result of COVID-19 in Canada, compared to 3,027 the week before. Of those, 121 were in intensive-care units.

Current health guidance for COVID

Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary, but generally include sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, feeling feverish, chills, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, new loss of smell or taste, headache, abdominal pain and diarrhea. According to Health Canada, people may start experiencing symptoms anywhere from one to 14 days after exposure. Typically, symptoms appear between three to seven days after exposure.

Health Canada advises following the testing guidelines provided by your local public health authority if you have symptoms or have been exposed to a person with COVID-19. If you test positive, immediately isolate yourself from others, including those in your household, and follow the advice of your local public health authority on isolation requirements.

How to protect yourself and your loved ones from respiratory viruses

Respiratory viruses are spread from person to person or through contact with contaminated surfaces, so it’s important to protect against both forms of transmission. Health Canada recommends wearing a medical mask or respirator, washing your hands regularly or using hand sanitizer, covering your coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and objects. If you feel sick, stay home and limit contact with others.

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