By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Canadians who got a flu shot this year may have cut in…
TORONTO – Canadians who got a flu shot this year may have cut in half their risk of getting sick enough from flu to require medical care, new data suggests.
“It seems that this vaccine is cutting your risk of influenza in half, which … is still important protection, especially if you’re a high-risk person,” said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a flu expert with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control who oversees the surveillance network from which the data was drawn.
Skowronski said an important message from the data relates to the care of people who are at high risk of the complications of influenza if they become infected.
Doctors caring for such patients shouldn’t assume that because they got vaccinated they won’t contract influenza this winter, she said. For these people, use of antiviral drugs may be warranted if they become ill.
The mid-season flu vaccine effectiveness estimate is drawn from a surveillance network of a couple of hundred family doctors and community physicians in the country’s five most populous provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.
The network is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, with support from the involved provinces.
Skowronski and colleagues crunched data submitted by physicians in the network over the weekend.
This type of work studies people who seek care for influenza-like illness, looking to see if they are actually infected with flu and whether they had received a flu shot.
It is similar to a U.S. effort to measure the effectiveness of flu vaccine there which is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The U.S. CDC released interim vaccine effectiveness estimates late last week. In their analysis, this year’s vaccine reduces the risk of requiring medical help for flu by 62 per cent overall, and by 55 per cent for influenza A viruses.
Flu vaccine offers protection against two subtypes of influenza A, H3N2 and H1N1, as well as one type of influenza B virus.
The U.S. figures were based on a sample of patients in which the breakdown of flu infections was 57 per cent for influenza A and 43 per cent for influenza B.
The B component of the vaccine appears to be offering better protection this year than the A, about 70 per cent. And because the U.S. sample had such a large proportion of B cases, that had the effect of raising the overall estimate, Skowronski said.
But the Canadian figures are a closer representation of the proportion of A versus B viruses that are causing illness this winter in this country, she said. So far this flu season H3N2 has been responsible for the lion’s share of Canada’s cases.
In the interim analysis, 90 per cent of the positive cases were infected with influenza A and 10 per cent were infected with influenza B.
The A component of the vaccine appears to reduce one’s risk by between 45 and 50 per cent, Skowronski said. There were too few B cases to calculate a reliable estimate, and the overall estimate for the flu shot was 47 per cent.
Skowronski said an additional analysis will be generated at the end of the flu season.
By Rosemary Westwood - Monday, December 17, 2012 at 10:35 AM - 0 Comments
Mandatory immunization rules present a challenge
British Columbia’s front-line health professionals must either get the flu shot this year or wear a surgical mask in patient areas. Except it’s okay if they don’t. Such is the confusion in B.C. hospitals and clinics after the ministry of health watered down its controversial policy of mandatory flu shots for health workers who deal with patients.
The province originally announced the policy in August to combat low vaccine coverage among health workers. At the time, B.C.’s chief medical officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, said it would protect patients from contracting influenza, which causes more deaths than any other vaccine-preventable disease. An editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal praised the move, but B.C.’s major health unions fought it, arguing it infringed on worker’s rights and liberties.
On Dec. 4, the health ministry suspended the enforcement of the new policy for one year. That’s left “considerable confusion,” says Bonnie Pearson of the Hospital Employees Union, which helped negotiate the temporary compromise. Some employers are still telling workers to wear a special badge if they don’t get the shot, even though that part of the policy has been suspended, she says. Pearson argues a mandatory policy can have the opposite effect: “It’s that kind of a perverse ‘I’m not going to do it because you tell me I have to’ argument,” she says.
By Scaachi Koul - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 11:06 AM - 0 Comments
Chocolate makes snails smarter and fish could start losing weight
British Columbia: Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that changes in ocean and climate systems could result in smaller fish. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, looked at more than 600 species of fish from oceans around the world. It determined the maximum body weight the fish can reach could decline by 14 to 20 per cent by the year 2050.
Alberta: University of Calgary researchers exposed snails to epicatechin, a component found in many foods, including chocolate and green tea. In the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, they found it helped boost the molluscs’ memories. They couldn’t determine yet whether the findings apply to humans.
Manitoba: Findings from the University of Manitoba’s faculty of medicine show that children from lower-income areas have a tougher time than kids from higher-income areas in health and school. Most worrisome, the study, which tracked Manitoba children aged 19 and under from 2000 to 2010, found that the rate of child deaths in lower-income areas was more than three times greater than in higher income areas.
Ontario: With flu season creeping up, a new study by Public Health Ontario suggests that ethnic communities are more likely to get a flu shot than Canadians who identify themselves as white or black. A dozen ethnic groups, including Filipino, Japanese, southeast Asian and Chinese, were all found to be more likely to get the shot.
Quebec: For a minority of mothers, giving birth leads to the same psychological shocks felt by soldiers in war. Researchers at McGill University found one in 13 mothers suffers post-traumatic stress disorder following delivery. The women suffer flashbacks, nightmares, sleeplessness and try to avoid anyone who reminds them of the trauma of birth, including their babies.
By Cathy Gulli and Tom Henheffer - Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 10:45 AM - 23 Comments
Seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccine schedules vary by area, age and health status. Check our provincial guide for details.
Deciding whether or not to get the flu shot is never easy—only one in three Canadians do each year. With the H1N1 vaccine being rolled out in a few weeks, the decision is even tougher. In the midst of mixed messages about who needs which shot and when, the majority of Canadians are planning to skip the vaccine altogether. Complicating matters is an unpublished report revealing that among people who received the seasonal flu shot, their chances of contracting H1N1 are 1.5 to two times higher. That research, coupled with a growing consensus that H1N1 will be more prevalent this fall and winter than the seasonal flu, has prompted many provinces to revamp their vaccine schedules. Below, Maclean’s gathers the details from each provincial government. Additional information is available from the Public Health Agency of Canada.