Category Archives: Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador | Update on 911 negotiations with the City of St John’s

The Provincial Government today announced that negotiations with the City of St. John’s have reached a stalemate regarding an agreement to operate a call taking centre for the Avalon Peninsula for the new province-wide Basic 911 service.

With the City declining the opportunity to continue as a 911 service provider in the new province-wide Basic 911 service, other options are now being explored.

“After months of negotiations with the City of St. John’s to formalize a contract for the provision of 911 call taking services for the Avalon Peninsula, the city has advised that it is not prepared to enter into an agreement based on the new Crown corporation, NL 911 Bureau Inc., having final responsibility for the service, which is required by the Emergency 911 Act. Effective today, the Provincial Government will immediately move to find an alternate arrangement for the operation of a Public Safety Answering Point for the Avalon Peninsula.” - The Honourable Judy Manning, Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Minister Responsible for Fire and Emergency Services-NL

An agreement has yet to be reached between the Provincial Government and the City of St. John’s as two major issues remain unresolved, the most significant of which is the budget process. There has been a change in the overall responsibility for the delivery of 911 through the establishment of a province-wide Basic 911 service and the establishment of the Emergency 911 Act. While the Provincial Government was willing to provide the City of St. John’s control over the day-to-day operational budget of the 911 service for the Avalon Peninsula, the fundamental need for the Provincial Government to retain overall control and accountability per the new legislation has created an impasse.

The Provincial Government is now exploring having the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) in St. John’s become the Public Safety Answering Point for the Avalon Peninsula. The RNC currently operates a police dispatch service, and already responds to the vast majority of 911 calls in the region. Any service provider must meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for the new province-wide service, ensuring a consistent level of service throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The City of St. John’s has offered to provide support during a transition period between providers in the future.

“The safety and security of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is of paramount importance to our government. For that reason, in March, all residents of Newfoundland and Labrador will have access to province-wide Basic 911. Residents will be able to access this service on all landline telephones and on cellular phones where a cellular signal can be accessed. Finding a long-term solution for the provision of 911 on the Avalon Peninsula will have no effect on residents throughout the province, as the City of St. John’s will continue to provide the same level of service it always has for a number of communities throughout the Avalon Peninsula until a new service delivery option is confirmed. All other 911 calls on the rural Avalon Peninsula not currently handled by the city may be forwarded to the Corner Brook call taking centre for an interim period, which will be confirmed in the coming days as well.”
– Minister Manning

Since announcing the province-wide Basic 911 initiative in 2012, the Provincial Government has completed extensive work on preparation and implementation of the new service. Province-wide consultations were conducted; the new Emergency 911 Act was passed in the House of Assembly, and a Crown corporation (NL 911 Bureau Inc.) was established with staff in the final stages of recruitment.

Effective March 1, 2015, the Basic 911 service will be funded through a 75 cent fee on all phone lines throughout the province remitted to the NL 911 Bureau Inc. The cost of operating a 911 call taking centre is covered by this fee and will have no impact on municipalities or the Public Safety Answering Point operators.

Newfoundland and Labrador | Four animals identified with rabies in Labrador

The Department of Natural Resources has identified four animals with rabies in Labrador – a wolf in Labrador City on January 25, a red fox at the IOC site in Labrador City on February 1, a dog in Labrador City on February 10, and a red fox at the Voisey’s Bay site on February 11. Final confirmation from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on the Voisey’s Bay fox is pending.

Further animals are being investigated including a red fox first sighted near Schefferville (Labrador side) on February 6 and euthanized on February 11.

Rabies is seen in Labrador in cycles of uncertain length. Residents are encouraged to remain vigilant and take precautions when encountering animals acting in a strange or aggressive manner.

Officials with the departments of Natural Resources and Health and Community Services will continue to monitor this situation and are encouraging residents of Labrador to take the following precautions:

  • Keep domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, under control;
  • Vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies;
  • Avoid wild animals particularly foxes and wolves;
  • Report any sightings of strange-acting wild or domestic animals to conservation officers, wildlife enforcement officers, veterinarians, police or public health officials;
  • Wash any bites or other areas of contact with potentially rabid animals immediately with soap and water;
  • Immediately go to your health clinic or emergency department for treatment of any animal bites or scratches. Any significant contact with potentially rabid animals should be reported to public health officials.

For further information regarding rabies education visit www.nr.gov.nl.ca/rabies

Maine | Maine Cooperative Snow Survey shows high water content in snowpack, in upper range of measurements

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Maine Geological Survey reports that the Cooperative Snow Survey results for February 2015 show high water content in Maine’s snowpack, with results in the upper range of measurements conducted over the last 10 years.

Key findings of the February survey:

  • Snow depths and water content have increased significantly since the January survey.
  • Five sites in Maine report over 30 inches of snow
  • A dozen sites recorded over six inches of water content.
  • Highest water content was reported in northern Somerset and Franklin Counties.
  • The map of water content for February shows about 3-5 inches of water in the snow in southern, central and northern Maine.
  • The snowpack in eastern Maine has slightly higher water content, and the greatest water content in this survey is in the western mountains to the Canadian border.
  • There has been a significant increase in water content of the snowpack since January, mostly in southern and eastern Maine.
  • Compared to the last 10 years, much of the water content in the snowpack around the state is in the upper 25% of measurements, except for northernmost Maine and the western foothills, where the water content is normal.

It is important to note that historically, snowmelt alone has not resulted in significant flooding. However, snowmelt was a significant contributor to rain events that caused major flooding on the Kennebec River in 1987 and on the St. John River at Fort Kent in 2008. The Maine Cooperative Snow Survey:

The Maine Cooperative Snow Survey collects, interprets, and distributes information on the depth and water content of Maine’s snowpack in the late Winter and early Spring, when the danger of flooding in Maine’s rivers and streams is greatest. The snow survey is conducted each winter beginning in January with monthly measurements. In March, weekly measurements begin which continue until snow melt is complete.

The survey data is analyzed by staff from the Maine Geological Survey and U.S. Geological Survey, and maps are prepared showing the water content in snowpack for the State. This information is transmitted to the National Weather Service (NWS) for use in preparing flood potential statements and running flood forecast models. In the event of a significant flood, the NWS would use the data to refine its estimates of flood crests. The data are also distributed to the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and, through MEMA, to county emergency management officials.

Posted on the MEMA website are maps showing water content in snowpack, changes in water content from the preceding survey, snowpack depth, snowpack density, water content in snowpack compared to historical values, and mean water content in Maine drainage basins. Also posted is table of snow survey sites with current readings listed.

The snow survey for February was completed during the week of February 2, and the final maps are available at: http://www.maine.gov/rfac/rfac_snow.shtml

The Maine Cooperative Snow Survey is coordinated jointly by the Maine Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with:

  • ALLAGASH WILDERNESS WATERWAY
  • BROOKFIELD RENEWABLE POWER, INC
  • COBBOSSEE WATER DISTRICT
  • COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC
  • MAINE FOREST SERVICE
  • MINISTERE DE L’ ENVIRONNEMENT QUEBEC
  • NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
  • NESTLE – POLAND SPRING WATER COMPANY
  • CANADIAN PROVINCE OF NEW BRUNSWICK
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES
  • POLAND REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
  • SAPPI LIMITED

Americas | Measles outbreak spreads – USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil

Between 1 January and 8 February 2015, the IHR National Focal Points of Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States notified PAHO/WHO of a total of 147 cases of measles, most of which are related to a large multi-state outbreak in the United States.

United States of America

A total of 121 measles cases have been reported in the Unites States of America from 1 January to 6 February 2015 in 17 states and Washington, DC:

  • Arizona (7)
  • California (88)
  • Colorado (1)
  • District of Columbia (1)
  • Delaware (1)
  • Illinois (3)
  • Michigan (1)
  • Minnesota (1)
  • Nebraska (2)
  • New Jersey (1)
  • New York (2)
  • Nevada (2)
  • Oregon (1)
  • Pennsylvania (1)
  • South Dakota (2)
  • Texas (1)
  • Utah (2)
  • Washington (4)

For cases with ages reported, the age of case-patients range from less than 12 months to 59 years old (median = 19 years old). The majority of cases (103) are linked to an amusement park in California, which they visited between 17 and 20 December 2014. The outbreak likely started from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles and visited the amusement park while infectious; however, no source has been identified.

Canada

Canada is investigating two separate measles outbreaks.

  • On 3 February, the Lanaudiere Public Health Department of the Agency for Health and Social Services in Quebec province reported a total of 8 suspected cases of measles since the beginning of 2015. These suspected cases are members of the same family, who are unimmunized for religious reasons. They are linked to the current outbreak in the United States.
  • On 2 February 2015, in Ontario province, the Toronto Public Health reported 4 laboratory-confirmed cases of measles, involving 2 children under the age of two and 2 adults from four different families.

As of yet, no source has been identified and there are no known links or contact between the cases. Contact tracing of exposed contacts is underway for the two outbreaks.

Mexico

The Mexico IHR National Focal Point reported 2 imported cases of measles with history of travel to the United States. The first case is a 22-month-old female from Baja California Sur, Mexico (rash onset 30 December 2014) with history of travel to California from 16 to 18 December 2014. The second case is a 37-year-old, unvaccinated female from Nueva León state (rash onset 13 January 2015), whose only history of recent travel was to San Francisco, California from 26 to 31 December 2014. Local and national authorities have implemented appropriate prevention and control measures. So far, no further cases have been registered in Mexico.

Brazil

Ongoing measles transmission has being reported in the northern states of Pernambuco and Ceará, Brazil for the period 2013-2015. Measles virus was first detected in Pernambuco on 19 March 2013. From that time to the end of the outbreak, on 14 March 2014, a total of 224 confirmed cases, including one fatal case, were reported in 24 municipalities. The most affected group was children under 1 year old (44.6%; 110/224). Genotype identified was D8.

This outbreak spread out to the neighbour state Ceará, where the first case was reported on 25 December 2013. As of 5 February, a total of 718 cases were confirmed in 31 municipalities. Rash onset of the last confirmed case is 19 January 2015. No deaths have been reported yet. Most cases are in children less than 5 years old (37.1%), followed by adolescents and adults aged 15-29 years old (33.2%). A total of 51 cases remain under investigation in 12 municipalities; rash onset of the last suspected case was 2 February 2015. Genotype identified was D8.

Additionally, one case with travel history to Fortaleza, Ceará was reported in a 40-year old male, resident of the state of Roraima.

Ontario | Ottawa – Public health officials issue Frostbite Warning

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has issued a Frostbite Warning to ensure people take appropriate precautions before going outside and to encourage homeless people to seek indoor shelter from the cold. This warning is in effect from Thursday, February 12, 2015 until further notice.

A Frostbite Warning is issued when a wind chill of -35 or colder is forecast for the Ottawa area.  With a wind chill of -35 or colder, exposed skin can freeze in less than ten minutes.  There is also an increased risk of hypothermia for people who stay outside for long periods of time without adequate protection. Overexposure can result in severe injury and even death.  OPH recommends that you wear several layers of clothing to keep warm and make sure that the outer layer protects you from wind and moisture.

Frostbite results when the skin and underlying tissues freeze.  Skin is white and waxy and feels hard to the touch.  Frostbite is a serious condition that can require amputation.  Medical attention is advised.  Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite where only the skin freezes. Both frostbite and frostnip can be treated by gradually warning skin using body heat or warm water.  Never rub or massage affected areas.

Children, the elderly, people with poor circulation and the homeless are particularly vulnerable to cold weather.  There are many services available to help the homeless:

  • Emergency sleeping spaces in Ottawa shelters,
  • Street outreach services to encourage homeless people to come in from the cold, and
  • Provision of emergency transportation and other services by the Salvation Army.

To seek assistance for a homeless person, concerned citizens are encouraged to call: 3-1-1.  Calls are answered by the City of Ottawa Call Centre on a priority basis and referrals are made to the appropriate services.

For more information on frostbite, hypothermia and cold weather precautions visit ottawapublichealth.ca or call 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656).

Look for our live extreme weather updates on Twitter @OttawaHealth. You can also connect with OPH on FacebookTumblr, and Pinterest.

Ontario | Toronto – Extreme Cold Weather Alert – seek shelter, check on loved ones

Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, has issued an Extreme Cold Weather Alert today for Toronto that will be in effect until further notice.

Exposure to cold weather can be harmful to your health. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 35°C and can have severe consequences, including organ failure and death. Frostnip and frostbite can also occur in cold weather when skin freezes.

During extreme cold weather, residents are encouraged to call or visit vulnerable friends, neighbours and family to ensure they are not experiencing any difficulties related to the weather. Those most at risk of cold-related illness are people who work outdoors, people with a pre-existing heart conditions or respiratory illness, those taking certain medications, infants and young children, and those who are homeless. People with heart problems can experience worsening of their condition up to several days after cold weather occurs.

This alert triggers cold weather services for homeless people, including two 24-hour drop-ins, additional shelter beds, TTC tokens for people to get to shelter, increased street outreach, and a direction to shelters to relax any service restrictions in place.

During an Extreme Cold Weather Alert, members of the public are encouraged to take the following precautions:
• Dress in layers, making sure your outer layer is windproof, and cover exposed skin.
• Wear a hat, warm mittens or gloves, and warm boots.
• Stay dry. Your risk of hypothermia is much greater if you are wet.
• Choose wool or synthetic fabrics for your clothes instead of cotton, because cotton stops keeping you warm once it gets wet.
• Seek shelter if you normally spend long periods outside. Depending on the wind chill, exposed skin can freeze in minutes.
• Avoid alcohol as it increases blood flow. You may feel warm even though you are losing body heat.
• Consider rescheduling outdoor activities, or limiting time outdoors, especially if it’s windy.
• Heat your home to at least 21ºC if babies or elderly people are present.

If you see someone on the street who needs outreach assistance – which may include a shelter bed due to the cold temperatures – call 311. For medical emergencies, call 911.

More information and tips for staying warm during extremely cold weather are available at toronto.ca/health.

Nova Scotia | Acadia U student recovering from meningitis in hospital

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Strang confirmed today, Feb. 11, that an Acadia University student is in hospital recovering from meningococcal meningitis.

This is the second case of an Acadia student contracting the disease. The strain is not yet known. The first patient passed away Feb. 1 from the B strain of the disease.

“I understand the heightened level of concern, and we are working with Acadia University and local public health officials to provide information to the university community, including students, parents, staff and faculty,” said Dr. Strang.

“Two confirmed cases in one population is unusual. If it is the B strain, we will begin a targeted vaccination program starting next week.”

The latest case is a female student who lives alone off campus, and does not have close contacts who would be at greater risk of contracting the disease. There was no known contact between her and the first student to contract meningitis.

The lab confirmed Tuesday night the case is meningococcal meningitis. Confirmation of the strain may take a few days. Local public health staff are already on campus to help the university prepare for a potential vaccination program and support student health services staff.

“It’s important to remember that even with this latest diagnosis, the risk of getting the disease remains low in the general public,” said Dr. Strang. “There is no need to cancel classes or limit the movement of Acadia students and staff. Basic precautions can help prevent spreading the disease.”

Steps to prevent the spread of meningitis include:
— not sharing drinks, water bottles, eating utensils, lip balm or toothbrushes
— reducing direct contact with nose and mouth discharges
— washing hands, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if washing isn’t possible

Anyone with severe symptoms should go to an emergency department or call 911. If unsure, call 811 for advice. Symptoms include:

— fever
— headache
— change in the level of alertness and/or altered mental state
— stiff neck
— rash
— nausea
— vomiting
— increased sensitivity to light

More information is available at http://novascotia.ca/dhw .

Newfoundland and Labrador | Water levels on Exploits River under close surveillance

The Department of Environment and Conservation, Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Town of Badger are monitoring water levels and ice conditions on the Exploits River.

Current conditions on the river have warranted an ice jam advisory, and a river watch has been initiated by the municipality. Water levels are currently at 99.2 metres, which is approximately 0.7 metres above the top of the river bank. Provincial Government officials were in the community this afternoon and remain in regular contact with the municipality and emergency management partners and will continue to actively monitor the situation.

The Town of Badger experienced significant flooding in 2003. Since then, a robust river monitoring system has been put in place and an emergency management plan has been developed.

Residents of Badger are being provided updated information through the town’s website at www.townofbadger.ca/ External Link.

Information regarding water levels and other river data is available online at the Department of Environment and Conservation website at www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/waterres/flooding/badger.html.

Information on how to prepare for and address flooding can be found at www.getprepared.gc.ca

Ontario | Lambton County – Cold weather alert issued

Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health has issued a COLD WEATHER ALERT for Lambton County based on the latest forecast from Environment Canada that predicts the temperature to drop to -15°C on Thursday afternoon.

The alert, the fifth of the season, will remain in effect over the weekend until Monday. Nighttime lows hovering around -20°C are expected over the weekend. The Medical Officer of Health will not issue a Cold Weather Alert termination.

Lambton Public Health advises local agencies that provide shelter and assistance to homeless people to prepare for an increase in demand during the Cold Weather Alert.

All residents should take precautions during a Cold Weather Alert by dressing in layers, shielding exposed areas from the wind such as head, neck and face, and limiting time spent outdoors.

Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health issues a Cold Weather Alert when one or more of the following is met:

  • Daily, low temperature is predicted to be -15°C or below, without a wind chill value.
  • Environment Canada issues a wind chill warning for Lambton County.
  • Extreme weather conditions, such as a blizzard or ice storm, are predicted.

Overexposure to cold can be hazardous, even life-threatening. Hypothermia, which can strike in any season, occurs when the body temperature drops below the normal range between 36.1°C and 37.8°C (97°F-100°F). Symptoms may include pale skin, lethargy, confusion, excessive shivering and hallucinations.

If someone is suffering from hypothermia:
• Seek immediate medical attention.
• Move person to a warm area, if possible; dress in warm clothing.
• Offer warm water, juice or milk.
Do not offer alcohol or hot drinks.

Frostbite can occur in skin that is overexposed to cold temperatures. Symptoms of frostbite include skin turning red, blue, or a grey/white colour. Individuals may also experience pain, numbness and stiffness, especially in fingers, toes, ears and nose.

If you suspect frostbite:
• Warm the skin next to the affected area or immerse in warm water. Do not use hot water.
• Do not rub the affected area.
• Seek immediate medical help.
• Re-warming may take up to 60 minutes.

Avoid hypothermia or frostbite:
• Check the weather forecast.
• Dress warmly. Wear several layers of warm, loose-fitting clothes.
• Protect your head and neck with a hat, scarf or hood: 30% of body heat escapes through the head.
• Protect your face with a mask.
• Wear wool socks and well-fitted boots that cover the ankles.
• Wear mittens. They protect hands better than gloves.
• Outermost layer of clothing should protect you from the wind.
• Stay dry. Wet clothing chills the body. Remove outer layers or open your coat if sweating.
• Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
• Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
• Limit outdoor activity.
• Know your limits. Children, seniors and those with circulation problems are more susceptible to cold.

For more information on severe cold weather, visit www.lambtonhealth.on.ca.

Ontario | Public health officials urge vaccination against measles with eight cases confirmed in the province

Today Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and Dr. Robin Williams, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued the following statement on the measles cases in Ontario:

“In the last two weeks, eight cases of measles have been confirmed in Ontario. So far, there are no known common sources of exposure and currently they are not known to be linked to the cases in the United States.

While the risk to the general public is low, measles is highly contagious. It is important for people to be fully immunized against this serious disease; it’s the best way to prevent measles and its spread. We are urging Ontarians to ensure all their immunizations for measles and those of their children are up-to-date, not only to protect them from this disease, but those around them. Parents who do not get their kids immunized are putting other children at risk.

Adults born in 1970 or later require two doses for optimal protection, depending on their age and level of risk. Individuals born before 1970 are generally presumed to be immune from measles. Currently, it is recommended that children should have the first dose at 12 months and a second dose when they are four to six years old, preferably before they start school.

The science is clear and there is indisputable evidence that the measles vaccine is both safe and effective. There is overwhelming evidence and consensus among health professionals in support of vaccinations. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that they and their loved ones are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.

Immunization is important as measles is a highly contagious viral infection that is spread through the air from person to person through coughing or sneezing. It can be spread by someone who does not appear ill.  All Ontarians are eligible for measles vaccination, according to the Publicly Funded Immunization Schedules in Ontario.

We will continue to work closely with Public Health Ontario and local public health units to monitor measles cases in the province. For further information about measles and measles immunization, or if you are not sure about your immunization status and are looking to get vaccinated, contact your health care provider or call your local public health unit.

If you plan to travel abroad, consult your health care provider in advance of travel so you and those travelling with you–especially young children–have sufficient time to become immunized and protected.

If you think that you or a family member has measles, contact your health care provider immediately.  Be sure to call ahead to let them know that you are coming and that you suspect that you may have measles so that appropriate precautions can be taken.”