Category Archives: Canada

New Brunswick | Province launches seasonal flu campaign

The seasonal influenza vaccine is now available in the province.

“Vaccination is recognized as the single most effective way of reducing the impact of seasonal influenza, especially for those at risk of complications,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, acting chief medical officer of health. “I urge all New Brunswickers, especially vulnerable populations, to protect themselves and be immunized.”

Each year strains of seasonal influenza viruses change. As a result, the flu vaccine needs to change to ensure it protects against the current viruses.

Seasonal influenza poses serious health risks to the elderly, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems or other chronic health conditions. The Department of Health provides publicly-funded influenza vaccine for individuals at high risk of influenza. This year’s seasonal influenza vaccine is available free of charge to the following groups by many different immunization providers through a variety of programs:

  • Adults and children with chronic health conditions:

o   cardiac or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma);

o   diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases;

o   cancer, immune compromising conditions (due to underlying disease and/or therapy);

o   renal disease;

o   anemia or hemoglobinopathy;

o   conditions that compromise the management of respiratory secretions and are associated with an increased risk of aspiration;

o   morbid obesity (body mass index of greater than 40);

o   children and adolescents with conditions treated for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid.

  • people of any age who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities;
  • people older than 65;
  • healthy children six months to 18 years of age;
  • pregnant women;
  • aboriginal people;
  • people capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk:household contacts (adults and children) of individuals at high risk of influenza-related complications (whether or not the individual at high risk has been immunized), as listed above;

o   household contacts of infants younger than six months;

o   household contacts of children 6 months to 59 months;

o   members of a household expecting a newborn during the influenza season;

o   health-care workers.All healthy persons aged 19 to 64 years are also encouraged to receive the flu vaccine, except those individuals who have shown an adverse reaction to the vaccine in the past or whose medical history suggests they might experience an adverse reaction.

“The flu is often seen as a minor illness but it should not be underestimated,” said Russell. “Seasonal influenza can be very serious for at-risk populations and there are flu-related hospitalizations and deaths every flu season. The best way to protect yourself and loved ones is through immunization.”

During the 2013-14 influenza season there were more than 1,400 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza. There were 269 influenza-related hospitalizations for the same period with 53 of those patients admitted to intensive care units. Fifteen New Brunswickers died due to illness associated with influenza.

Newfoundland and Labrador | Minister of Health provides update on Ebola preparedness

The Honourable Steve Kent, Minister of Health and Community Services, provided an update today on the ongoing work, planning and preparedness activities being undertaken by the Provincial Government and regional health authorities in the event that an Ebola case appears in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I want to emphasize for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that while the risk of a case of Ebola or subsequent widespread infection in this province is low, we are quickly moving forward with planning to ensure that our health system is ready to respond. This work includes ensuring proper protocols are in place, holding tabletop and mock exercises, ensuring personal protective equipment is ready and accessible in hospitals, and training our health care workers on how to use this equipment. While the response to Ebola will continue to evolve, I have great confidence in the strong infection control systems and procedures in place in our hospitals designed to provide the best care possible for patients, limit the spread of infection, and protect the public and health care workers.”
– The Honourable Steve Kent, Minister of Health and Community Services

The four regional health authorities are ramping up their training for health care providers starting this weekend. This includes hands-on training on how to use the necessary protective equipment such as impervious outerwear, N95 masks, face visors, and long gloves or double gloves depending on the medical procedure.

“The Ebola virus does not spread easily from person to person. Ebola is spread by touching the body fluids, including blood, vomit or diarrhea, of a person sick with the disease or someone who has died from it. Our province has previous experience preparing for communicable diseases like SARS and pandemic influenza, which helps us in our response to public health risks or outbreaks. The Department of Health and Community Services will continue to work closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada to monitor any recommended changes to personal protective equipment and we will make adjustments as necessary.”
– Dr. Faith Stratton, Chief Medical Officer of Health

Individuals who have recently visited a West African country where there are Ebola outbreaks, and are feeling ill, are advised to call the Newfoundland and Labrador HealthLine 24-hours a day at 1-888-709-2929 before presenting to a physician’s office or emergency department.

QUICK FACTS

  • The Provincial Government is moving forward with planning and training activities to prepare for an Ebola case in the province.
  • The risk of an Ebola case or widespread infection in this province is low and the disease is not spread easily from person to person.
  • The regional health authorities are ramping up training for health care providers to ensure they are prepared to use the necessary protective gear if required.
  • Health care provider preparation includes hands-on training on how to use the necessary protective equipment such as impervious outerwear, N95 masks, face visors, and long gloves or double gloves depending on the medical procedure.
  • Individuals who have recently visited a West African country where there are Ebola outbreaks, and are feeling ill, are advised to call the Newfoundland and Labrador HealthLine at 1-888-709-2929 before presenting to a physician’s office or emergency department.

Newfoundland and Labrador | Provincial govt working with community partners to prepare for Hurricane Gonzalo

Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and Labrador (FES-NL) is monitoring Hurricane Gonzalo. The recent forecast information from the Canadian Hurricane Centre advises of the potential for heavy rainfall, strong winds and large waves beginning Saturday evening and continuing into Sunday.

“The Provincial Government is actively engaged in preparations for potential weather impacts, and emergency responders are ready to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of all residents. Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to communicate with its emergency management partners and communities throughout the province. I would encourage individuals to take measures to ensure their own safety and the safety of their neighbours and families.”
- The Honourable Judy Manning, Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Minister Responsible for Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and Labrador

The highest rainfall amounts are forecasted for the eastern half of the island portion of the province and could be in the range of 50 to 75 millimetres by Sunday, October 19. On its current track, north to northwest winds associated with Hurricane Gonzalo could reach gusts up to 70 to 80 kilometres per hour. Municipalities and residents in coastal areas along the south coast, Burin Peninsula and southern Avalon Peninsula are advised to exercise caution and should prepare for large waves of four to six metres, pounding surf or potential storm surges at high tide.

Municipalities and local service districts are encouraged to prepare for the forecasted adverse weather conditions and ensure their emergency plans are readily available and can be activated if required. ‎Councils are encouraged to have emergency contact information available and to continue to monitor weather forecasts throughout the storm. Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs regional office staff are available to assist Fire and Emergency Services in their efforts.

“I would encourage all municipalities and local service districts to make preparations for Gonzalo, and ensure that their staff remain vigilant throughout the weekend. In addition, residents are asked to adhere to warnings and recommendations from both Environment Canada and their council or Local Service District committee. Officials from our regional offices will be at the ready to assist where required to provide advice and guidance to community leaders and staff.”
- The Honourable Keith Hutchings, Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs‎

FES-NL is actively monitoring this weather system and working with emergency management partners. Many local governments have an emergency management plan in place. Individuals and communities are advised to prepare for flooding, power outages, downed power lines and other potential impacts.

Further information and tips regarding preparedness can be found below and at www.gov.nl.ca.

Municipalities and Local Service Districts
Local governments should revisit their emergency management plans and ensure first responders are informed of possible adverse weather. Public works crews should make every effort to remove debris from culverts, drains, streams and underneath bridges to allow for the free flow of water and to prevent unnecessary flooding.

Residents
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should keep emergency preparedness top of mind. A few simple steps now, as outlined below, may prevent personal harm if a serious incident were to occur:

  • Ensure sump pumps are in working order;
  • Keep all household drains free from debris;
  • If you become aware of flooding on streets or observe areas where culverts are blocked, contact municipal officials to advise them of the situation as soon as possible;
  • Watch for weather warnings and advisories;
  • Follow local weather forecasts – weather.gc.ca/warnings/index_e.html?prov=nl ;
  • Prepare and maintain a 72 hour emergency kit – www.getprepared.ca ;
  • Develop an emergency plan, remembering the specific requirements of pets or any person in your household with a medical condition, mobility issues, or other special needs – www.gov.nl.ca/fes/emo/preparedness.html;
  • Be aware of all local emergency numbers;
  • Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy; and
  • For information about insurance coverage please visit the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) website: www.ibc.ca/en/Natural_Disasters/Protect_Yourself_from_Climate_Change/Are_you_covered.asp

Canada | Statement from the Minister of Health on Ebola

The Public Health Agency of Canada is meeting with provinces and territories on a weekly basis to support their readiness. In the event of an Ebola case in Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada is ready to respond with a team of public health experts and epidemiologists experienced in infectious disease outbreak management to support the investigation and contact tracing, provide laboratory expertise to quickly confirm diagnosis, and any supplies that may be needed from the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile System, such as masks, gloves, and face shields.

We have also provided guidance and protocols for all necessary training for frontline healthcare workers.

Our experience in dealing with public health issues, including SARS, H1N1 and H5N1, has strengthened Canada’s preparedness for public health risks or outbreaks.

Earlier today, I spoke with Linda Silas from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions and Anne Sutherland Boal from the Canadian Nurses Association. The nurses and all frontline healthcare workers have our full support and I thank them for their dedication and commitment to protecting Canadians. It is imperative that all frontline healthcare workers have guidance and information to deal with Ebola. They are the first line of defence against infectious diseases and they must be fully included in all communications.

To ensure that is occurring consistently across the country, I also convened a call with Provincial and Territorial Health Ministers to further discuss their level of Ebola preparedness and ensure provinces and territories are providing all the necessary training to all frontline healthcare workers. On this call I encouraged all provinces and territories to look into doing tests runs to ensure protocols are in place, and proper personal protective gear is available.

I am confident that all Health Ministers are committed to preparedness and protecting Canadians and all frontline health workers.

I want to remind Canadians there are no direct flights into Canada from the affected countries in Africa. All international points of entry into Canada are routinely monitored 24/7. As an added precaution, our Government has further strengthened border measures to help prevent the unlikely importation of Ebola into the country. Effective last Friday, all travellers identified as having arrived in Canada from an affected West African country will now be referred to a Public Health Agency of Canada Quarantine Officer for a mandatory health assessment. Quarantine Officers have the necessary training and equipment to conduct a health assessment, including checking for fever, and determine whether additional public health measures are required.

Through our National Microbiology Laboratory we are extremely well connected with provincial labs to ensure Canada is ready to detect and respond quickly if necessary. This means that in the chance there are suspected cases, we can quickly test and take appropriate action.

In Canada we are extremely fortunate that we have some of the best hospitals in world. This includes the care for infectious diseases, as well as strong infection control systems in place to protect against the spread of disease.

The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr. Gregory Taylor, has been in regular contact with the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health across the country to discuss the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Yesterday, following a productive discussion, all Public Health Officers in Canada agreed to look into further strengthening our protocols.

We stand ready to continue to support provinces and territories with any guidance necessary in their front line work.

Rona Ambrose
Minister of Health

Ontario | Patient at The Ottawa Hospital under investigation for Ebola virus disease

A patient at The Ottawa Hospital’s General Campus is undergoing tests for the Ebola virus disease. The patient, who had recently visited a West African country where Ebola has been reported, arrived at the hospital yesterday. In keeping with recommended infection prevention and control practices, the patient was immediately placed in isolation until the source of the illness can be identified. 

To protect patient confidentiality, no information about the patient’s age or gender can be disclosed. The patient is currently doing well and is being kept at The Ottawa Hospital’s General Campus for observation. Specimens from the patient have been sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for testing, with results expected by later today.

“All necessary precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of other patients, visitors and hospital staff. Strict infection prevention and control measures in Ontario hospitals means the risk of Ebola to other patients and health care workers is minimal,” said Dr. Jonathan Angel, Infectious Disease Specialist at The Ottawa Hospital.

“It’s important for the public to know that Ebola virus disease spreads only through direct contact with infected bodily fluids. It is not an airborne infection and cannot be spread through casual contact,” said Dr. Isra Levy, Medical Officer of Health. “This patient under investigation for possible Ebola virus disease has demonstrated that the processes that have been put in place by local hospitals, the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), and other public health agencies including Ottawa Public Health are being followed.”

Ebola virus disease is a severe disease that causes haemorrhagic fever in humans and animals. In its late stages, this serious viral infection can cause internal and external bleeding which can lead to death. The current outbreak of Ebola is located in West African countries. To date, there have not been any documented cases of Ebola in Canada

For additional information on Ebola visit the following websites:

Further updates will be provided as they become available.

Additional information about Ebola virus disease is available at OttawaPublicHealth.ca or by calling Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744.  You can also connect with Ottawa Public Health on Facebook and Twitter (@ottawahealth).

Alberta | Premier Prentice announces new Fort McMurray EMS helipad

A new helicopter landing pad in Fort McMurray will provide better access to emergency care for Albertans living and working in Wood Buffalo. 

The landing pad represents a $5.5 million investment into emergency medical services in the region. It will be located on top of the main tower of the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, with construction starting and finishing in 2015.

“Quick access to emergency care is important to Albertans. Fort McMurray has many residents living and working in remote areas and by locating this heliport at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre we can save precious transport time in getting critically ill or injured patients the care they need.” – Jim Prentice, Premier

Current air ambulance services in Fort McMurray operate out of the Fort McMurray International Airport, and patients are transported by ambulance from the airport to the hospital, a trip that can take up to 21 minutes. Locating the helipad at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre will reduce the time patients spend in transit.

“There is no question that this new helipad responds to an important need in our growing community, ensuring response times are meeting community needs.” – Don Scott, MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin

“A hospital emergency services helipad is a key component of ‎a time effective HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service). Local HERO Foundation is extremely pleased that we will now be able to reduce transport times by delivering patients directly to the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre. This will save lives.” – Paul Spring, ‎President, Local HERO Foundation

There were over 100 medevac flights to the Fort McMurray airport in the last 12 months.

Manitoba | Travel history actively being requested of patients

Patients exhibiting symptoms that may be consistent with Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and are arriving at any of Winnipeg’s six emergency rooms, calling for medical advice, or receiving care in the community should not be alarmed when asked to provide detailed information about any recent travel history to medical staff.

“We do not want patients or clients to be alarmed when asked for their travel history,” said Ms. Helen Clark, Chief Operating Officer for Emergency Response and Patient Transport with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA).”Getting information about the travel history of patients showing symptoms consistent with EVD is critical information to help us assess health risk and determine the right course of response and treatment. This is also a recommended pre-screening step by the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

Winnipeg emergency rooms recorded over 285,000 visits last year. They remain a high-volume location that connects the public to the health system, and is the place where requesting and detailing travel history is most likely to be noticed by patients and the public.

“We want to emphasize that emergency departments and public health officials are not actively screening all patients for EVD,” said Ms. Clark.”Only patients presenting to emergency departments or to their primary care providers with symptoms possibly consistent with EVD should expect to be asked to provide information on their recent travel history to determine the right course of treatment and response.”

Initial symptoms of EVD may include fever, chills, muscle ache, headache, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

“As the flu season approaches and flu-like symptoms begin to emerge, we do not want the public to be needlessly alarmed when they are asked about their travel history,” said Ms. Clark.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to say the public health risk in Canada due to EVD remains very low, although risk is greater for Canadians who provide medical care to EVD infected individuals as part of the response efforts in West Africa.

Despite the low risk, the WRHA is planning and preparing for the low probability a person with suspected EVD may at some point present to a health care provider within Canada or Winnipeg. The WRHA’s Public Health program, together with the Region’s Infection Prevention & Control and emergency medical services, are actively monitoring the EVD outbreak in consultation with PHAC and Manitoba Health.

Manitoba | Hero in polar bear attack honoured

Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh and Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson  awarded one of Manitoba’s highest honours, the Order of the Buffalo Hunt, to Bill Ayotte, in recognition of his heroic intervention that saved the life of Erin Greene when she was attacked by a polar bear in Churchill on Nov. 1, 2013.

“The people of Churchill have learned to live with and respect polar bears but when he saw a young woman being attacked by a bear, Bill Ayotte reacted without hesitation and those actions saved her life,” said Minister Mackintosh.  “He risked his own life to save a neighbour and that courage should be recognized and rewarded.”

Early in the morning of Nov. 1, 2013, Ayotte heard the screams of a young woman being attacked by a polar bear outside his house.  Armed with only a shovel, he distracted the animal so she could get away.  Unfortunately, the bear turned on him and he suffered numerous injuries before natural resource officers and other residents could scare it away.

“This quick-thinking, selfless action saved Erin Greene’s life, while putting his own life in grave danger,” said Minister Robinson.  “We commend the heroic actions of Bill Ayotte and believe he is worthy of the Order of the Buffalo Hunt as well as our gratitude and admiration.”

In addition to the honour bestowed upon Ayotte, congratulations and gift presentations were made to the seven-member Polar Bear Alert team of natural resource officers, Churchill resident Didier Foubert-Allen, who helped with the rescue efforts, and Greene, who was mauled by the bear.

Manitoba’s Order of the Buffalo Hunt was established in 1957.  The honour is bestowed by the province to individuals who demonstrate outstanding skills in the areas of leadership, service and community commitment.

Manitoba | Three cases of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) in province

The Chief Provincial Public Health Officer advises three individuals have tested positive for enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) in Manitoba.

EV-D68 is a type of virus that causes a range of illness.  EV-D68 is one of several circulating viruses most commonly found in the summer and fall.

The confirmation of cases in Manitoba is not unexpected, as cases have been laboratory-confirmed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

Most of the time, healthy children are only mildly affected or may have no symptoms at all.

Respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough or a runny nose are the most common with EV-D68.  It can also affect the lower respiratory tract, causing wheezing and shortness of breath.  Recently, several clusters of severe respiratory illness in hospitalized children due to EV-D68 infection have been found in the United States and Canada.

Certain children are at higher risk for more serious symptoms, such as those with asthma or other lung disorders. Children with a weaker immune system, such as those on medications that reduce the immune response like chemotherapy or steroids, may be more seriously affected.  Younger children, due to limited exposure to the virus, may also be more at risk.

This is not the first time that EV-D68 has been confirmed in Manitoba.  In 2009, approximately 20 individuals, mostly children, were infected with this virus.

To reduce the risk of an EV-D68 infection, Manitobans should regularly wash their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer, and use proper cough etiquette, such as coughing into the elbow.

If a child has a high fever, difficulty breathing, is not drinking well or not urinating, parents can contact their health-care provider, call Health Links–Info Sante in Winnipeg at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll-free), go to a walk-in clinic, a QuickCare Clinic or the nearest emergency department.

Nova Scotia | New fire safety program targets youth

A unique initiative launched in Nova Scotia today, Oct. 1, will encourage youth to become leaders in fire safety.

The Nova Scotia Office of the Fire Marshal is participating in a national initiative that provides teachers across the country with lesson plans on fire safety, and encourages every household to test and replace their smoke alarms during Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 5-11.

“We’re thrilled to have the participation of our fire departments in this national program of the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners,” said Harold Pothier, Nova Scotia’s Fire Marshal. “Fire departments and school teachers in our communities have long had a unique partnership in teaching children about fire safety that can leave a lasting impression on students and prevent tragedies years down the road.”

The initiative is expected to reach up to 100,000 students across Canada during Fire Prevention Week. This year’s theme is Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month! It will be supported by local fire departments and the campaign’s website www.safeathome.ca .

“Fire is very unpredictable and can travel a lot faster than most people think,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Mark Furey. “This initiative is a great way to educate our youth on the importance of fire safety and, through them, educate their parents as students will take this information into their homes.”

“The potential benefits of a successful national outreach are enormous,” said Duane McKay, president of the national council. “In more than half of fatal fires, investigators find no working smoke alarms. Fire safety programs that focus on youth deliver the fire safety fundamentals they need to know to escape a burning home, while motivating parents to test and maintain their smoke alarms.”

Parents should watch for Test and Replace homework pages, which include a home fire escape planning sheet and a safety checklist. Once completed, parents and youth can register their home at www.safeathome.ca/testandreplace and download a certificate of completion for students to take back to class.

Smoke alarms are required on every storey of homes and outside all sleeping areas. Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries should be replaced at least once a year. If it is more than 10 years old, even if the alarm sounds when the test button is pushed, it should be replaced as cooking and dust can deteriorate the sensor over time.

More details on the initiative can be found at www.safeathome.ca/testandreplace .

During Fire Prevention Week in Nova Scotia, Mr. Furey, the Office of the Fire Marshal, first responders and other partners will hold a live twitter chat on fire safety Tuesday, Oct. 7, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #nsfiresafety.

Be well. Practice big medicine.