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Is it strep throat? Pharmacies say they could give you the answer and maybe save a trip to the doctor

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‘Tis the season for colds, flu and sore throats. And anguishing over whether you — or your child — need to go to the doctor. Maybe it’s better to stay in bed — but what if it’s strep throat and antibiotics are required?

In three Canadian provinces (B.C., Alberta and Nova Scotia), you can walk into some pharmacies and get a rapid “point-of-care” strep throat test.

The pharmacist takes a throat swab, and within a few minutes, tells you whether it tested positive or negative for group A streptococcus — the bacteria that cause strep throat.

Now pharmacy owners want that test to be available across the country.

It’s a quick and easy way, they say, to confirm whether a sore throat is caused by strep bacteria or by a virus.

That’s important because only about a third of sore throats in children between five and 15 years old are caused by strep. The rest of the time it’s usually a virus, in which case antibiotics won’t do any good and shouldn’t be prescribed. 

So if the test comes back positive for strep, the pharmacist will advise you to go to the doctor and get the appropriate prescription. In Alberta, you could get the antibiotic right away, as pharmacists have prescribing authority in that province.

If the test comes back negative, “you may just need fluid and rest, which a pharmacist could advise you on,” said Sandra Hanna, vice-president of pharmacy affairs for the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada and a pharmacist in the Toronto area.

“In the majority of cases, an antibiotic … would not be required, because it’s a viral sore throat,” she said.

Since about two-thirds of sore throats are viral and antibiotics shouldn’t be prescribed, ruling out strep infections in a pharmacy setting can help save patients unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office, says Sandra Hanna, vice-president of pharmacy affairs for the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada and a practising pharmacist. (Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada)

The test, which costs patients about $15, allows people “to determine whether they need to go to the doctor or not,” Hanna said.

That, in turn, could help prevent the unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions which contribute to antibiotic resistance, she said.

For all those reasons, the association, which represents pharmacies (including chains such as Shoppers Drug Mart and mass merchandisers with pharmacy services such as Costco and Walmart), says strep point-of-care testing should be available across the country, and is currently lobbying to start it in Ontario.

Sounds great, right?

Not so fast, say infectious disease specialists.

When it comes to kids, point-of-care tests (also called rapid antigen tests) shouldn’t be used on their own to rule out strep throat, said Dr. Jeffrey Pernica, head of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

“These tests that they’re talking about don’t work well enough to be reliable in children. And children are the ones who are the most at risk from complications of strep throat, like rheumatic fever. And they’re the ones who get strep throat the most,” he said.

(For adults, strep throat is less common.)

When doctors suspect a patient has strep throat, they usually do a throat swab and send it off to a lab for a “throat culture test,” where the sample is left for a day or two to see if it grows into strep bacteria.

Dr. Jeffrey Pernica, head of the division of pediatric infectious disease at McMaster University, says he understands the appeal of rapid strep tests, but they shouldn’t be used in isolation when it comes to ruling out strep throat in children. (McMaster University)

That’s the “gold standard diagnostic test” for strep throat, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s also the accepted medical guideline for treating strep throat in children, said Dr. Jonathan Gubbay, a Toronto pediatrician specializing in infectious disease, as well as a medical microbiologist for Public Health Ontario.

Gubbay actually uses a point-of-care test in his clinic when he suspects a child has strep throat because he can get the result back in five or 10 minutes. If it’s positive, he can start antibiotic treatment right away.

But if it’s negative, he sends a sample to the lab for the culture test to make sure the point-of-care test wasn’t a false reading.

It’s important to make sure a strep diagnosis isn’t missed in children, Gubbay said, because although rare, it can progress into an invasive form of the disease or heighten the risk of rheumatic fever, which can damage the heart and joints.

“The sensitivity [of rapid tests] isn’t as good as we’d like,” he said.

So how reliable are they? It depends on who you ask.

The Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association says the point-of-care tests are accurate more than 90 per cent of the time. But both Gubbay and Pernica say that’s unlikely.

Dr. Jonathan Gubbay, deputy chief of medical microbiology at Public Health Ontario and a pediatric infectious disease physician, says a comprehensive physical exam of a child with a sore throat can sometimes rule out strep throat without requiring a swab at all. (Public Health Ontario)

Although studies that show such high accuracy do exist (including those cited by test manufacturers themselves), the doctors say a broader look at the research puts the number closer to 70 per cent.

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, also questions whether point-of-care tests are as accurate as they claim to be.

“There are lots of tests that are licensed and the packages always tell you that they’re fantastic. In the real world, they vary a lot,” she said.

Both Saxinger and Gubbay also point out that diagnosing strep goes beyond the throat swab — regardless of how the results are processed, because physicians and nurse practitioners do complete physical exams. In many cases, they’re able to rule out strep throat without even doing a swab — a level of diagnosis they’re not sure all pharmacists are equipped to provide.

But Hanna said in the provinces where point-of-care tests are in place, pharmacists do have comprehensive conversations with patients — and also guard against missed strep diagnoses.

“Tests that show a negative result in patients where the pharmacist strongly suspected them of having strep throat, based on their symptoms, were referred to a physician for further evaluation,” she said.

The manufacturers of point-of-care tests, including those for strep throat, ‘always tell you that they’re fantastic. In the real world, they vary a lot [in accuracy],’ says Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta. (University of Alberta)

The in-pharmacy tests could also save the health-care system money, the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association says, citing a study published in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal in August. It concluded the pharmacy-based treatment saved an average of $12.47 to $24.36 per patient.

However, the study did not account for the fact that patients pay about $15 out-of-pocket for the strep test — and it was funded by Loblaw Companies Limited, which runs pharmacies and owns the Shoppers Drug Mart chain.

That raises questions for Pernica about how impartial the findings are.

“There’s a clear incentive for the drug stores to get people [in],” he said. “Because if they have strep throat, they’ve done them a service. If they don’t have strep throat, they’re still there. And I think that people will be walking out of those drug stores with cough and cold remedies.”

Regardless, Pernica said he understand the appeal of the pharmacy-based tests for patients.

“Pharmacists will make a good point in saying that sometimes it’s hard to get in to see your doctor or nurse and it’s sometimes easier for people to access pharmacies. I completely agree with that,” he said.

But he’s not convinced there’s enough independent research to back up the claims that false negatives aren’t happening — or even that there’s a cost-saving to the health-care system.

“I’m not sure of the data yet,” said Pernica. “Will people actually get treated more appropriately faster? Will the overall costs be lower? I think these are answers we don’t have yet.”


This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.

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Bill Gates: Third Shot May Be Needed to Combat Coronavirus Variants

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With more than 40 million Americans having received at least the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, a third dose may be needed to prevent the spread of new variants of the disease, Bill Gates told CBS News Tuesday.

Gates’ comments come amid growing concern that the current vaccines are not effective against the more contagious Brazilian and South African variants.

Pfizer and Moderna have stated that their vaccines are 95% and 99% effective, respectively, against the initial strain of COVID. However, some scientists have questioned those statements. Additionally, the World Health Organization and vaccine companies have conceded that the vaccines do not prevent people from being infected with COVID or from transmitting it, but are only effective at reducing symptoms.

Gates told CBS Evening News:

“The discussion now is do we just need to get a super high coverage of the current vaccine, or do we need a third dose that’s just the same, or do we need a modified vaccine?”

U.S. vaccine companies are looking at making modifications, which Gates refers to as “tuning.”

People who have had two shots may need to get a third shot and people who have not yet been vaccinated would need the modified vaccine, explained Gates. When asked whether the coronavirus vaccine would be similar to the flu vaccine, which requires yearly boosters, Gates couldn’t rule that out. Until the virus is eradicated from all humans, Gates said, additional shots may be needed in the future.

AstraZeneca in particular has a challenge with the variant,” Gates explained. “And the other two, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, are slightly less effective, but still effective enough that we absolutely should get them out as fast as we can while we study this idea of tuning the vaccine.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the studies being conducted in Brazil and South Africa, CBS News said. The foundation has also invested in the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and the Novavax vaccines, which are being tested against new variants. Once the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved, the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative or GAVI, founded by Gates, will distribute it globally.

“Gates continues to move the goalposts,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chairman and chief legal counsel of Children’s Health Defense. “Meanwhile the strategies he and others have promoted are obliterating the global economy, demolishing the middle class, making the rich richer and censoring vaccine safety advocates, like me.”

Kennedy said that the exclusive focus on vaccines has prevented the kind of progress required to actually address and recover from the pandemic:

“From the pandemic’s outset, clear-headed people familiar with the challenges inherent in the vaccine model have understood that the path out of crisis would require multiple steps. Those steps would need to include the development and/or identification of therapeutic drugs, the sharing of information among doctors to hone improved treatment models that reduce infection mortality rates below those for flu, and the kind of broad-spectrum long-term herd immunity that protects against mutant strains and that only derives from natural infection.”

Instead, Gates and vaccine makers are proposing a lifetime of boosters, supporting insufficient testing to determine safety and failing to address the inadequate monitoring of vaccine injuries, Kennedy said.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.

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Young nurse suffers from hemorrhage and brain swelling after second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

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(Natural News) A 28-year-old healthcare worker from the Swedish American Hospital, in Beloit, Wisconsin was recently admitted to the ICU just five days after receiving a second dose of Pfizer’s experimental mRNA vaccine. The previously healthy young woman was pronounced brain dead after cerebral angiography confirmed a severe hemorrhage stroke in her brain stem.

Her family members confirmed that she was “breaking out in rashes” after the vaccine. She also suffered from sudden migraine headaches, and got “sick” after taking the second dose of the vaccine. At the very end, she lost the ability to speak and went unconscious. The migraines, nausea, and loss of speech were all symptoms of a brain bleed and brain swelling, something her family did not understand at the time, and something nobody would expect after vaccination.

While on life support, neurologists used angiography to image the damage inside the brain. They found a subarachnoid hemorrhage, whereas a bulging blood vessel burst in the brain, bleeding out in the space between the brain and the tissue covering the brain. The ensuing swelling cut off oxygen to the brain and caused brain death. On February 10, 2021, Sarah reportedly had “no brain activity.” Some of the woman’s organs are now being procured, so they can be donated to other people around the world.

Doctors warn FDA about COVID vaccines causing autoimmune attacks in the heart and brain

Experimental COVID-19 vaccines may cause inflammation along the cardiovascular system, leading to heart attack and/or stroke. This serious issue was brought forth to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by Dr. J. Patrick Whelan, M.D., Ph.D. and further confirmed by cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D. The two doctors warned that a recently-infected patient who is subject to COVID-19 vaccination is likely to suffer from autoimmune attacks along the ACE-2 receptors present in the heart, and in the microvasculature of the brain, liver and kidney. If viral antigens are present in the tissues of recipients at the time of vaccination, the vaccine-augmented immune response will turn the immune system against those tissues, causing inflammation that can lead to blood clot formation.

This severe adverse event is likely cause of death for the elderly who are vaccinated despite recently being infected. There is no adequate screening process to ensure that this autoimmune attack doesn’t occur. The elderly are not the only people vulnerable to vaccine injury and death. Pfizer’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine could be the main cause behind the sudden death of Sarah Sickles, a 28-year-old nurse from Wisconsin. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System has captured five permanent disabilities in Wisconsin, 58 ER visits, and eleven deaths in just one month. This is the first case in Wisconsin of someone under 44 years of age suffering from severe COVID-19 vaccine side effects and death. There are now more than 1,170 deaths recorded in the U.S. related to the experimental mRNA vaccines, a reality that the FDA and CDC continue to ignore.

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Powering hypersonic weapons: US armed forces eyeing dangerous 5G tech

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(Natural News) Much of the conversation surrounding the benefits of 5G is geared toward the consumer side of the technology. People will be able to download videos at lightning speed and will be more connected than ever, proponents claim, although there are serious questions regarding its safety. However, some of the most important 5G applications are not civil at all – the technology will be used extensively in the military domain.

Some of its military uses are outlined in the Defense Applications of 5G Network Technology report, which was published by the Defense Science Board. This federal committee gives scientific advice to the Pentagon. Their report states: “The emergence of 5G technology, now commercially available, offers the Department of Defense the opportunity to take advantage, at minimal cost, of the benefits of this system for its own operational requirements.”

The 5G commercial network that is being built by private companies right now can be used by the American military for a much lower cost than if the network had been set up exclusively for military purposes.

Military experts expect the 5G system to play a pivotal role in using hypersonic weapons. For example, it can be used for new missiles that bear nuclear warheads and travel at speeds superior to Mach 5. These hypersonic weapons, which travel at five times the speed of sound and move a mile per second, will be flying at high altitudes on unpredictable flight paths, making them as hard to guide as they will be to intercept.

Huge quantities of data need to be gathered and transmitted in a very short period in order to maneuver these warheads on variable trajectories and allow them to change direction in milliseconds to avoid interceptor missiles.

5G for defense

This type of technology is also needed to activate defenses should we be attacked by a weapon of this type; 5G automatic systems could theoretically handle decisions that humans won’t have enough time to make on their own. Military bases and even cities will have less than a minute to react to incoming hypersonic missiles, and 5G will make it easier to process real time data on trajectories for decision-making.

There are also important uses of this technology in combat. 5G’s ability to simultaneously link millions of transceivers will undoubtedly facilitate communication among military personnel and allow them to transmit photos, maps and other vital information about operations in progress at dizzying speeds to improve situational awareness.

The military can also take advantage of the high-frequency and short-wavelength millimeter wave spectrum used by 5G. Its short range means that it is well suited for smart military bases and command posts because the signal will not propagate too far, making it less likely that enemies will be able to detect it.

When it comes to special forces and secret services, the benefits of 5G are numerous. Its speed and connectivity will allow espionage systems to reach unprecedented levels of efficiency. It will also make drones more dangerous by allowing them to identify and target people using facial recognition and other methods.

Like all technology, 5G will also make us highly vulnerable. The network itself could become an attractive target for cyber-attacks and other acts of war being carried out with cutting-edge weaponry. In fact, the 5G network is already viewed as critical infrastructure and is being carefully protected before it is even fully built.

While the focus on 5G’s dangers to human health and the environment is absolutely warranted, it is also important not to lose sight of the military implications of 5G. After all, it is not just the United States that is developing this technology for military purposes; our enemies, like China and other countries, are also making great strides in this realm.

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