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New Brunswick joins provinces affected by E. coli linked to romaine lettuce

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A case of E. coli thought to be linked to romaine lettuce has been confirmed in New Brunswick, making it the third province affected by an outbreak that has now made 19 people in Canada ill. 

“New Brunswickers should avoid eating romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreak and the cause of contamination,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, in a news release issued Wednesday

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which on Tuesday warned people not to eat romaine lettuce in Ontario and Quebec, is aware of the case in New Brunswick, spokesperson Anna Maddison told CBC News in an email, and is updating its national advisory. 

The strain of E. coli contaminating the lettuce is the same that caused a similar outbreak last year, prompting questions about why the federal government has stopped short of issuing a mandatory recall. 

“Basically it’s lightning striking twice,” said Prof. Keith Warriner, a microbiologist specializing in food safety at the University of Guelph, noting that the strain, E. coli O157, is particularly “virulent,” meaning it makes people sick more often than other forms of the bacteria.

“It’s worrying that it’s the same strain [of E. coli as last year], which basically means it’s the same source. And that means they never solved the problem,” he said. 

Keith Warriner, a microbiologist specializing in food safety at the University of Guelph, says both Canadian and American regulators should issue a mandatory recall of romaine lettuce amid the current E. coli outbreak. (University of Guelph)

In addition to the New Brunswick case, there have been 15 confirmed cases of the bacterial infection in Quebec and three in Ontario since mid-October, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

Although no deaths have been reported, at least six people have been hospitalized. 

South of the border, the outbreak has also made 32 people sick in 11 states, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Health officials were never able to conclusively determine exactly what caused romaine lettuce to become contaminated with E. coli O157 in Canada and the U.S. in November and December 2017. Because they weren’t able to pinpoint a specific supplier of lettuce, they didn’t issue a recall.

That was a “point of frustration” then, said Warriner, because it left retailers and restaurants uncertain about whether to pull romaine lettuce from their shelves — something many ended up doing anyway

Regulators are “always a bit hesitant to press that recall button,” he said, because they don’t want to risk singling out the wrong company or supplier, which can be financially devastating to that particular business or industry. 

Between farm field and store shelf, lettuce passes through “many hands” and processes, he said, making it very difficult to identify the source of E. coli contamination. 

When asked by CBC News why a recall hasn’t been issued, a spokesperson for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said the agency was leading an investigation into the possible source of the outbreak.

“If a specific brand and/or source of romaine lettuce or other product is identified in the investigation, CFIA will take appropriate action. If a food recall warning is issued, CFIA would verify that the food industry and retailers remove the recalled products from the marketplace,” said Lisa Murphy in an email on Wednesday. 

“Neither the Canadian or American food safety investigation have been able to identify a specific product of concern in the Canadian or American marketplace. All products tested as part of the investigation have been negative so far.”

But Warriner believes a “blanket” recall — making it mandatory for all stores and restaurants to stop selling or serving romaine lettuce, regardless of the source — is warranted. 

“It’s the same playbook [as last year]. They seem to be saying, ‘We’re not going to recall it, but we advise you not to eat it.’ Which I think is a bad thing because it gives confusion.” 

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also said his agency didn’t have enough information to request suppliers issue a recall, but he said supermarkets and restaurants should withdraw romaine products until the contamination can be identified.

Major grocery chains in Canada — including Loblaw Companies Limited, Sobeys Inc. and Metro Inc. — announced Wednesday they were voluntarily removing romaine lettuce products from their stores across the country.

In a news release posted on its website, Loblaw also said its stores would provide “a full refund” if customers returned the products. 

Most people suffering from E. coli infections “recover completely on their own,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said. Those most at risk for developing complications are pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, young children and seniors.  

Complications can be life-threatening, including kidney failure.  

Some people can be infected with E. coli without symptoms but still spread the infection to others, the agency said. 

Symptoms of E. coli illness include nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, severe stomach cramps and watery or bloody diarrhea.  People usually get better within five to 10 days and there is no “real treatment” apart from staying hydrated. 

Antibiotics should not be used in treating E. coli O157 bacterial infections, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital. 

Dr. Isaac Bogoch explains why this type of infection should not be treated with antibiotics 0:43

“They can actually do more harm than good,” said Bogoch. “If antibiotics are used with this particular type of infection, what can happen is it can trigger a pretty nasty cascade within the body that can result in kidney failure and kidney damage.”

E. coli bacteria are naturally found in the intestines of farm animals. Contamination of vegetables and fruit can occur when they come in contact with animal feces. Most forms of the bacteria are harmless. 

What people should do

Under normal circumstances, health officials often advise people to throw away the outer leaves of romaine lettuce and wash the rest. But right now, with E. coli O157 around, people shouldn’t take any risks, Warriner said, advising them to get rid of any romaine lettuce they have. It only takes a small number of the bacteria’s cells to cause illness, so handling contaminated lettuce can spread infection, he said. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to “wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored” and to see their health-care provider and notify public health authorities if they have symptoms of an E. coli infection. 

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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