Thursday, August 27, 2009



Sunday, August 23, 2009

This is What Spring Cleaning Means

Spring cleaning

Spring cleaning is the process of thoroughly cleaning a house from top to
bottom once the weather has lost its winter chill. In the past, inadequate heating in homes and small living spaces often meant that certain types of cleaning had to wait for spring. For example, pioneers who used straw tick mattresses, tended to wait till spring to refill these, so that they could use fresh dry hay for filling. Before modern dryers, washing drapes or comforters was complicated by cold weather and tight living quarters. Those in cold climes and had no other choice but to wait for warm weather to hang laundry outdoors to dry.

There are several suggested origins for spring cleaning based on religious practices. One of these is traced to the Jewish celebration of Pesach or Passover, which occurs in March or April each year. Prior to the celebration, the home is usually completely cleaned, and people also get rid of any leavened bread, called chametz, which are forbidden foods during the Passover days. Even crumbs of chametz or a few leftover specks of leftover grains from forbidden flours need to be removed from the home, and typically, Jewish families hunt for any possible chametz crumbs the night before Passover begins.

Another origin for spring cleaning is dated to the Persian New Year celebration, called Nouroz, which occurs at the onset of spring. Traditionally, Persian women clean everything in the house right before Nouroz begins, including floors, drapery, furniture, and ceilings. This is called khooneh takouni which translates to “shaking the house.” Twice a year in Saudi Arabia, a thorough cleaning of the Ka’aba is conducted too, which may relate to the khooneh takouni practice.

Later in history, many Eastern Orthodox Churches conducted a week long spring cleaning right before or during the first week of Lent. Other Christians may also use this time to clean the house from floor to roof. Obviously, anyone of any religion, inspired by warmer weather may want to take the time to get a house in order after the winter months.

Spring cleaning origins probably most date back to prehistory, and represent the time when it was easiest to conduct a good cleaning of living spaces. Extra light allowed people additional time to truly see the messy state of their caves, huts, or teepees. Warmer weather also meant that people could get things thoroughly dry. In agrarian societies, spring cleaning usually coincided with the beginning of planting. It could be an ideal time to organize seeds and get the home ready for the busy months ahead.

Some groups also conducted a winter cleaning right before the dreary cold of winter sets in. This is often the last opportunity to clean things like quilts, mattresses and furniture before cold weather makes it challenging to dry wet clothing. Today many Americans may also conduct a spring cleaning or organizing of their tax materials before the federal tax deadline of April 15th. If receipts or tax documents have been scattered through the house, people may want to organize and clean the home at the same time they organize and file their taxes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Could you have swine flu?

Could you have swine flu?

Health agency looking to get better read on how many infected
The province’s public health agency will launch a major study Friday to get a clearer picture of how many Ontarians have already had Influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu, and is recruiting 3,000 volunteers willing to give blood samples.
“It will give us a sense of how widespread H1N1 has been in Ontario,” explained Dr. Michael Gardam, director of infectious disease prevention at the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion.
About 4,000 Ontarians have tested positive for the swine flu virus through lab tests. But it’s believed this number is just the tip of the iceberg because most people with influenza symptoms do not visit a doctor.
Some people who have contracted H1N1 wouldn’t have even known it because they had no symptoms, said Mount Sinai microbiologist Dr. Allison McGeer.
The results will give public health officials an indication of how many people might get sick in the fall.
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Cases of swine flu among US soldiers in Iraq climb to 67, Iraqi official says
BAGHDAD - There have been 67 confirmed cases of swine flu among American troops in Iraq with dozens more suspected, Iraqi officials said Wednesday, making U.S. soldiers the single largest group in the country to come down with the virus.
American soldiers account for more than two-thirds of Iraq's 96 swine flu cases, according to figures released by the Iraqi Health Ministry, as it presented steps being taken to control the spread of the virus that last week claimed its first fatality in Iraq.
In addition to the soldiers, 23 Iraqis and six foreigners have been diagnosed with the virus, said Dr. Amer al-Khuzai, the deputy health minister. A 21-year-old woman, described in poor health, died in the southern holy city of Najaf where she had been visiting revered Shiite shrines.
All American soldiers diagnosed with swine flu have either recovered or are undergoing treatment, he said, adding that there have been no fatalities among U.S. forces.
The U.S. military confirmed the 67 cases, an increase from the 51 it reported earlier this week. It also said 71 suspected cases were in isolation.
"None have been significantly ill. None have required hospitalization or evacuation," Col. Michael D. Eisenhauer, chief of clinical operations in Iraq, told The Associated Press in an email Wednesday.
Swine flu cases have been diagnosed at six American bases in Iraq, he said.
The military has been giving the ministry weekly updates on the number of cases found on their bases in Iraq, Eisenhauer said in another email to AP this week. "There has not been a sudden outbreak," Eisenhauer said, explaining that the cases have appeared over the last three months since the military began screening for the virus.
In May, 18 soldiers on their way to Iraq were diagnosed with swine flu while in Kuwait, leading to an agreement between Iraq and the U.S. military to share information about the number of confirmed cases.
Troops heading to and from Afghanistan and Iraq are now also screened.
In Afghanistan, 14 U.S. personnel were diagnosed with and treated for swine flu in June at Bagram Air Base, the main U.S. base north of Kabul. In the western Afghan city of Herat, 22 Spanish soldiers were quarantined with suspected cases in July.
The Iraqi Health Ministry said the higher prevalence of the flu in U.S. troops than Iraqis was likely a combination of factors, such as their close living quarters and their travels.
"We think they have this many cases because they come through different countries to come here. They come from the United States. They come from Europe," al-Khuzai said.
Health officials caught 10 cases of swine flu at Baghdad's International Airport during the now routine screenings of arriving travellers, said Dr. Sabah Karkukly, who oversees the ministry's swine flu program.
Two more cases were found in the southern city of Najaf, while three others were appeared in Karbala.

The cases in the south raise concern about Iraq's ability to control the virus' spread among millions of Shiites who regularly visit the shrines in Najaf and Karbala.

Al-Khuzai cautioned Iraqis to avoid crowded places, including religious sites, where the virus can easily be transmitted.
Iraq's Cabinet on Wednesday banned trips to Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, during which millions of pilgrims will mingle at the holy sites there.
Iraq also has joined other countries in preventing children, the elderly and the chronically ill from the annual hajj pilgrimage in late November.
The World Health Organization, as of July 31, had tallied more than 162,000 swine flu cases worldwide. It counted at least 1,154 deaths, with more than 1,000 reported in the Americas, according to its Web site.
The Health Ministry also launched a public health campaign using posters, leaflets, television advertisements and radio spots to educate Iraqis about how to prevent transmission of the virus and what to do if they catch swine flu.
Iraq's Cabinet also approved the purchase of $100 million worth of the anti-viral medicine Tamiflu, which is enough for a quarter of Iraq's population, Karkukly said.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

H1N1 Virus Updates

Ottawa reports 4th death related to H1N1 but no more information released

OTTAWA - A fourth person in Ottawa has died after contracting the H1N1 virus.

Ottawa Public Health is releasing no information about the person, only saying the victim had chronic medical conditions.

There have been 361 confirmed cases of H1N1, also known as swine flu, in Ottawa, with 69 people admitted to hospital.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said as of Tuesday that 62 people with the virus had died across the country.


UPDATE: Canadian swine flu total up to 51

Canada's caseload of the virulent flu strain known as H1N1 reached 51 on Friday as British Columbia and Nova Scotia together reported 10 new cases of the disease described as a "medical condition" by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

B.C.'s four new cases involved one youngster, one teenager and two adults - all in the province's Lower Mainland, all mild and all involving people who were either recently in Mexico or in contact with people who were, said Premier Gordon Campbell.

While neither the status nor the number of cases in Canada should be considered cause for alarm, the level of worry surrounding a virus that's fuelling fears of a global pandemic is perfectly justified, Campbell told a news conference.

"We expect, and our experts expect, that the number of cases will continue to rise," Campbell said of the province's caseload, which is currently at 15.

"Unfortunately, we may see some deaths. We have deaths from flu every year. It's important for us to recognize that and it's important for us to recognize that, again, there is no reason we can't deal with this constructively and positively if we all pay attention to it."

Much the same warning came from health officials in Nova Scotia, which is where Canada's first cases of H1N1 came to light last weekend, all of them from a private school where a group of students had recently returned from a school trip to Mexico.

Indeed, all the new cases are students from the King's Edgehill private school in Windsor, N.S., said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief public health officer.

"At this point we're not seeing severe cases such as have been experienced in Mexico," Strang said. The province's total caseload is now 14, he added.

"We do expect to see new cases and we anticipate more in the coming days. As with normal flu, once the number of cases does increase, it is normal to see more severe cases and potentially even some deaths."

Ontario reported four more mild cases, all in the Toronto area, bringing the province's total to 12.

In Alberta, two more mild cases involving two women from Calgary, one a recent returnee from Mexico and the other from Tennessee, brought the total number in the province to eight, said Dr. Andre Corriveau, the province's chief medical officer of health.

Corriveau said health officials have heard that some businesses in Alberta are requiring any staff who have recently visited Mexico to see a doctor before they return to work, a step he described as unnecessary.

"We are appealing to people to be reasonable - not to clog our health-care system unnecessarily."

On Friday, the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton said it was asking parishes to make changes to help prevent the spread of infection.

Priests have been asked to stop distributing consecrated wine from the common cup and to encourage parishioners who usually receive communion wafers on their tongue to receive it in their hands instead.

"It is important to note that the Phase 5 WHO alert does not mean a life-threatening health situation in the Archdiocese and that the steps being recommended are precautionary," Archbishop Richard Smith said in his letter to priests.

An official with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said it was not immediately clear how many of the other 14 Archdiocese across the country are taking similar measures.
At an event in Edgeley, Sask., Harper said he's confident that Canadians, while taking the necessary precautions and eyeing developments with a sense of concern, are not getting carried away.

"My sense is the public is, like ourselves, concerned, but I don't sense a panic," Harper said. "I sense the public is listening very carefully to various advisories and warnings they are getting and responding appropriately and that's what we encourage."

Harper, who was asked about the World Health Organization's decision Thursday to begin referring to the virus by its formal name rather than the more colloquial "swine flu," glanced over his shoulder at an aide for confirmation of the new designation.

"This is obviously a medical condition so it makes sense to refer to it that way and I gather that's a standard that the World Health Organization is now trying to encourage," Harper said.
"The health risks here are to humans; that's the concern ... It is not the health of the hog industry in any way that is at stake here, so we will encourage that terminology."

Strang said all of the Nova Scotia students who had swine flu were now better, after spending at least seven days in isolation, and are no longer infectious.

One of the six students who became infected with swine flu was actually on the trip to Mexico, while the other five caught it after the students came back to Canada. Fifteen students at the school are still in isolation, he added.

Dr. Ken Buchholz, senior physician adviser with Nova Scotia's Department of Health. said there hasn't been a significant increase in the number of people going to emergency departments around the province.

"At this point, the (flu) cases have been mild, and nobody has been hospitalized."


Should Canada share H1N1 antivirals?

As Canada expects to have enough antiviral drugs for everyone who needs them during an H1N1 pandemic, ethicists ask whether we should consider giving some away to the rest of the world.
The Canadian pandemic plan includes a national stockpile of antiviral drugs that provincial and territorial governments plan to increase to 55 million doses to handle the increased demand for the medication due to the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus.

“We’re actually in good shape on antivirals thanks to the foresight of the public health agency,” said Dr. Peter Singer, a bioethicist and director of the McLaughlin-Rothman Centre at the University of Toronto. “That is a good time to reflect on just how lucky we are in relationship to other countries around the world, particularly on the antiviral issue, and maybe a time to begin to reflect on what we can do to help.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada has not yet decided whether to donate any part of its antiviral stockpile to developing countries who are not as well prepared, and said it is waiting for the World Health Organization to officially ask for help.


Pandemic H1N1 vaccine development 'on track,' WHO vaccine head says

Development of swine flu vaccine is "on track" and some countries may begin administering the vaccine as early as September, the head of the World Health Organization's initiative for vaccine research said Thursday.

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny said manufacturers have made small batches of the pandemic vaccine and are starting clinical trials to determine that the vaccine is safe and produces a protective response.

Kieny said clinical trials are already started in Australia, China, the United States, Germany and Britain and more will come on line in coming days.
Kieny declined to offer an updated prediction of how much swine flu vaccine will be available, saying at this point too much is unknown. Earlier the WHO had estimated that in a best case scenario, as many as 94 million doses a week could roll off production lines when manufacturing plants are fully engaged in making the vaccine.

"I would really like to avoid to make any projection right now," Kieny said, noting that initially the vaccine yield manufacturers were getting was substantially lower than they get when they make seasonal flu vaccine.

A new, better yielding seed strain has been developed, and shipping to manufacturers started Wednesday. The lab that made it, Britain's National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, says the new seed strain produces a yield on a par with that of seasonal flu vaccine production.

That will have to be confirmed by the manufacturers before revised production estimates could be calculated, Kieny suggested. "We need to see what are the real yields."
As well, she said, results from early clinical trials that show what dose size and number of doses each person needs will allow the WHO to make a better estimate of how much vaccine will be available.

It's one thing to have batches of vaccine made and another to be able to administer the product to people, Kieny warned, saying regulatory agencies in various countries must first license the vaccines.

Kieny gave a rundown of the fast-tracking systems various regulatory agencies have put in place, systems that have been devised in recent years in response to the realization that regulators would need to move swiftly when a pandemic starts.

She stressed that the fast-tracking won't undermine the safety of the vaccines being produced.
But countries using vaccine will need to be vigilant to look for and investigate any reports of adverse events linked to receipt of the vaccine, Kieny said.

The WHO realizes some such reports are inevitable. And while some may be real, others could be what are known as temporal associations - problems that seem like they may have been caused by the vaccine because they occurred after the person got a flu shot but which in reality would have happened regardless.

Kieny said countries will need to rapidly investigate any signals of problems related to the vaccine and communicate any findings quickly to the public.