Science & Environment

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B.C. man recovering after rare hantavirus exposure
Lorne Warburton thinks he contracted the virus while cleaning his attic before leaving for his family vacation

Author of the article:Sarah Grochowski
Published Dec 03, 2023 • Last updated 2 days ago • 3 minute read
Lorne Warburton this year survived exposure to a rare virus called hantavirus.
Lorne Warburton thought the illness he was battling after a vacation overseas was the flu. The Pemberton resident never expected the virus he was fighting to be much more deadly.


The 55-year-old father is sharing his experience of contracting the rare hantavirus in the hopes of helping keep others safe.


“I came home from Mexico on Friday, happy to have enjoyed snorkelling with my daughter, but eight days later I was on my death bed.”

Warbuton was suffering from hantavirus, which is linked to exposure to the urine and fecal matter of infected rodents.

What started with body aches, headaches and fatigue in mid-March turned into septic shock just days later, then the progressive failure of Warburton’s organs, including his heart and lungs.

“I had thought it was just a cold. Nothing I haven’t dealt with before and with a kid in the house, certainly nothing that was out of the ordinary,” Warburton said.


“But after mustering all the strength I had to get up from bed and go to the washroom Saturday morning, I saw that my hands and face were purple — I could barely move or breathe.”

Warburton’s wife, Anna, drove her husband to Pemberton Medical Clinic. Doctors knew immediately he required intensive medical care and was immediately flown to VGH.

“I was told my heart stopped for 11 minutes, they had to bring me back to life,” said Warburton.

Emergency doctors couldn’t identify the illness, but knew that with his rapidly deteriorating condition, Warbuton needed specialized care.

“They put me in an ambulance to Vancouver General Hospital. An ER doctor from the hospital came in the ambulance with me because she didn’t know if I was going to make it over the bridge,” the father said.


In the ICU, Warbuton was put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which allowed his heart and lungs to rest by pumping his blood outside his body for oxygenation.

“That machine saved my life,” he said, adding the machine is only put into service when patients with severe respiratory conditions can no longer tolerate the force of a ventilator.

With all the medical interventions, including being intubated for the use of a ventilator and a kidney dialysis machine, after five days Warburton’s condition stabilized.

“Thankfully, I was kept under close supervision, with more than 40 different health care workers tending to me during my stay,” Warburton said.

Eventually, Dr. David Sweet, a VGH infectious disease specialist, made the diagnosis of hantavirus.


After being treated for 15 days at VGH, Warbuton was able to recover at home in April.

“As a former parks worker in Whistler, I used to be able to do 150 pushups in 10 minutes, but now I can barely do one. The virus sucked the life out of me,” he said.

“While I still have a longer road ahead of me, I am forever indebted and grateful to the people who have helped me be here today. Even to my two daughters, who help me put on my jacket when I am not feeling strong enough to yet.”

Warburton’s best guess as to where he contracted the virus was while he was cleaning his attic before he left on vacation.

The key to avoiding hantavirus is to prevent rodent infestations and properly clean and disinfect areas contaminated by droppings, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Wearing an N95 or equivalent mask can also help.



sgrochowski@postmedia.com
 

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11 bodies recovered after volcanic eruption in Indonesia, 22 climbers still missing
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Rahma Nurjana
Published Dec 03, 2023 • 2 minute read
Ash spews from Mount Marapi.
Ash spews from Mount Marapi during an eruption as seen from Tanah Datar, Indonesia, in West Sumatra province, on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. The volcano in western Indonesia erupted, belching a column of ash about 3 km into the sky and forcing the evacuation of dozens of hikers, officials say, with at least 11 bodies recovered so far. PHOTO BY ADI PRIMA /AFP via Getty Images
PADANG, Indonesia — The bodies of 11 climbers were recovered Monday after a furious eruption of the Mount Marapi volcano as Indonesian rescuers searched for at least 22 others reportedly missing.

Mount Marapi in Agam district in West Sumatra province spewed thick columns of ash as high as 3,000 meters into the sky in a sudden eruption Sunday and hot ash clouds spread several kilometres. Villages and nearby towns were blanketed by tons of volcanic debris.



About 75 climbers started their way up the nearly 2.9-km mountain on Saturday and became stranded.

Eight of those rescued Sunday were rushed to hospitals with burn wounds and one also had a broken limb, said Hari Agustian, an official at the local Search and Rescue Agency in Padang, the provincial capital.

West Sumatra’s Search and Rescue Agency head Abdul Malik said rescuers on Monday morning found 11 bodies of climbers as they searched for those who were still missing and rescued three others.



“The evacuation process of the bodies and survivors is still ongoing,” he said, adding that rescuers are still searching for 22 climbers reportedly still missing.


A video on social media on Saturday showed the climbers were evacuated to a shelter, their faces and hair smeared with volcanic dust and rain.

Two climbing routes were closed after the eruption and residents living on the slopes of Marapi were advised to stay 3 km from the crater’s mouth because of potential lava, said Ahmad Rifandi, an official with Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center at the Marapi monitoring post.

Falling ash blanketed several villages and blocked sunlight, National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said. Authorities distributed masks and urged residents to wear eyeglasses to protect them from volcanic ash, he said.

About 1,400 people live on Marapi’s slopes in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages about 5 km from the peak.

Marapi’s alert level was maintained at the third highest of four levels, Abdul Muhari said, and confirmed that authorities had been closely monitoring the volcano after sensors picked up increasing activity in recent weeks.

Marapi has been active since a January eruption that caused no casualties. It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
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Why your mood could affect your flu shot
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Marta Zaraska
Published Dec 04, 2023 • 6 minute read

Silly cat videos could be good for your health — at least if you are about to get one of the seasonal vaccines.


For instance, when people who were in a positive mood got a flu shot that day, they produced higher levels of antibodies to help them fight the disease, according to one British study.


This data on mood and vaccines is limited, but a substantial body of research shows many other lifestyle factors — such as diet, exercise and even social interactions — may affect how much protection people get from vaccines, including, it appears COVID-19 jabs.

Scientists are still trying to determine how higher antibody counts translate into disease protection in real life: After all, there are other parts of the immune system, such as T-cells, that play an important role in keeping us healthy, too. Yet for now, antibody levels are a common measurement used by scientists trying to determine vaccine efficacy, and “that is generally a correlate of protection,” says Marian Kohut, an immunobiologist at the Iowa State University.


Not all people respond to vaccines in the same way. Some develop better antibody protection than others, while immunization may fail for an unlucky few.

“The response induced by a vaccine can vary tremendously between individuals,” says Bali Pulendran, an immunologist at Stanford University. Age is part of the reason, he says, with older people generally responding less effectively than younger ones.

Genetics also play a role. Studies of twins show that for some vaccines, such as measles, almost 90 percent of the variation in antibody response is due to our genes (for other vaccines, these numbers are lower – for mumps, for instance, the variation in antibody response due to genes is 39 percent).

Yet even if you are older and didn’t win the genetic lottery, you can still improve your chances of a good vaccine response, experts say.


“Sleep is a biggie,” says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor emeritus in psychiatry at Ohio State University’s College of Medicine whose research has focused on how stress and depression can alter our immune and endocrine systems. “When you’re not sleeping, you’re [impairing] your immune response.”

A 2023 meta-analysis of studies showed that sleeping fewer than six hours a night can hamper the immune system’s response to various vaccines.

In one experiment, where volunteers would sleep a mere four hours a night over a period of six days before vaccination, those who were sleep-deprived had only half the antibody response to their influenza vaccine 10 days after the jab compared with people who were allowed to sleep as much as they wished.


This is why Kiecolt-Glaser recommends “getting enough sleep, especially the night before, a couple of nights before ideally, and then getting enough sleep after the vaccine.”

Diet is important, too.

Research shows that a healthy gut microbiota plays a significant role in how well we respond to vaccination. In one 2023 study, among people receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, those who had a larger abundance of a beneficial gut bacteria associated with the eating of the Mediterranean diet – called Bifidobacterium adolescentis – maintained their vaccine protection longer, even six months after their second dose. Other research also found links between microbes that are known to keep the gut healthy and a better response to cholera vaccine and tetanus vaccine.


Antibiotics, meanwhile, can deplete the gut microbiome, potentially disturbing our immune response to vaccination – as Pulendran and his colleagues found in their 2019 study.

Taking antibiotics for five days “resulted in a 10,000-fold reduction in the bacteria in the gut,” he says. As a result, “people who got antibiotics had much, much lower antibody response to the flu vaccine than the control people.”

For Pulendran, such diminished efficacy of vaccines is “yet another reason” we shouldn’t prescribe antibiotics indiscriminately.

The good news is that probiotics seem to enhance the microbiome, including Bifidobacterium adolescentis, boosting the levels of antibodies produced after immunization. In one flu study, for example, taking Lactobacillus probiotics twice a day for 28 days after vaccination significantly increased the levels of antibodies. In mice, a Lactobacillus supplement helped the rodents’ immune response after a covid shot – although it’s worth noting that results in mice don’t always translate into humans.


Pulendran warns that such research doesn’t mean you should rush to the nearest store to stock up on probiotics.

“There is this bewildering array of different products,” he says, which have not been evaluated by science and are of mixed quality. This makes it difficult to assess what might boost the effectiveness of a particular vaccine.

Instead, Pulendran says, people should work on our healthy gut microbiome in the long term by eating plenty of fiber, while avoiding processed foods and added sugars.

In addition to sleep and diet, physical exercise appears to improve vaccine response in many people. Kiecolt-Glaser says this is why she tries to time her workouts for just before her annual flu and COVID shots.

A 2022 meta-analysis suggests that a short bout of exercise right before or immediately after immunization can increase the efficacy of flu vaccines, especially in older adults.


Exercising the arm in which you get the jab might be particularly beneficial – doing biceps curls, for example, says Kohut, whose research focuses on factors that affect the immune response to viral infection or vaccines. These kinds of “muscle damaging types of exercise done in the muscle where the vaccine is being administered would induce inflammation – and having higher inflammation could improve immune response to the vaccine,” she says.

Exercise also may diminish side effects that some people experience after vaccination, such as swelling at the jab site, or fever, according to a 2018 study. And even going for a brisk walk, lasting 45 to 90 minutes, after the shot may boost the antibody response, Kohut says her research suggests.


There are several theories why exercise may improve immune function, Kohut says, such as muscle-secreted proteins that influence the immune response and exercise-induced changes in the production of metabolites – chemical compounds that the body generates during metabolism.

Yet, she admits, scientists still don’t fully understand the mechanisms linking exercise and vaccine efficacy.

As with diet, research suggests making exercise a permanent and regular feature in your life is probably the most effective way to boost your antibody response to a vaccine.

A large 2023 study of health-care workers showed that for regular exercisers, coronavirus vaccines were over 85 percent effective in preventing hospital admissions. But in sedentary people – those engaging in less than 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week – immunization was just 60 percent effective. (One caveat – regular exercisers may have had better diets or sleep.)


Exercise aside, if you are having a particularly stressful couple of days, Kiecolt-Glaser says, you may want to avoid scheduling vaccinations at that particular time, especially if you are not young.

“The older a person is, the more stress matters” for the efficacy of vaccines, she says.

Kiecolt-Glaser’s research on seniors (mean age 73) caring for a spouse with dementia showed that only 38 percent developed an antibody response to the influenza vaccine, compared with 66 percent of those in the same age group who were not caregivers.

Strong social connectedness tends to boost how well we react to vaccines, studies have found.

In one report, first-year university students – who were vaccinated against the flu and could name at least 13 close friends or family members with whom they met frequently – produced significantly more antibodies after the jab than peers who reported fewer close contacts.


Similar effects have been found in studies involving the pneumococcal vaccine and COVID shots – people with better social networks appear to have a stronger antibody response than those who were lonelier or had few connections.

It may be a little late in this winter’s vaccine cycle to focus on addressing loneliness, nurturing relationships with neighbors or modifying your gut microbiota. But ensuring a good night’s sleep, sidestepping vaccinations on high-stress days and taking a brisk walk post-jab could all be advantageous.

And if silly cat videos make you relaxed and happy just before a shot, maybe that will help, too.
 

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Your hair care routine might carry health risks: Study
'Studies of the long-term impact of siloxane exposures to human health are urgently needed'

Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Erin Blakemore
Published Dec 04, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

The products that produce shiny, frizz-free hair emit high levels of substances that could endanger human health, research published last month concludes – and heated styling tools may make the problem worse.


Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the analysis focused on compounds known as siloxanes. These substances smooth, straighten and add shine to hair and are “ubiquitous” in hair care products, the authors write.


Despite their abundance, the researchers warn, siloxanes haven’t been adequately studied in humans. Animal studies suggest siloxanes can accumulate in the body and cause liver, lung and nervous system damage, but it isn’t clear how they affect humans, especially during hair care routines that typically take place in tight spaces and involve heated styling tools.

In a bid to learn more, researchers conducted experiments in a “tiny house laboratory” outfitted with a ventilator, bathroom exhaust fan and portable air conditioner. Over two months, they did 46 emissions tests, recruiting healthy volunteers ages 18 to 65 to replicate their own hair care routines using the products and styling tools they prefer at home.


As the volunteers did their hair, the researchers monitored volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions with a mass spectrometer. Siloxane emissions accounted for between 71 and 99 percent of VOC emissions during the experiments; in experiments with hair straightening and curling, VOCs surged every time the hair products were applied.

Hair care routines involving heat produced more VOC emissions, with hair straightening pushing emissions higher than any other styling method. This is likely due to the prolonged contact of the straightener with the saturated hair and freshly applied products, the researchers surmise.

During one experiment, participants applied the products to their hair without heat, then with heated styling tools at two higher temperatures. Though emissions existed even without heat, they were up to 3.1 times as high at the hair-straightening tools’ highest heat setting. Those with long hair generated more emissions than those with shorter styles.


Emissions generated during heated hair care were “substantially” higher than those measured in previous studies that looked at other personal care products like shampoos that are designed to be washed away, the researchers write. Though having the bathroom fan on during the hair care routine helped significantly reduce exposure, they say, the doses of siloxane exposure were still high.

“Studies of the long-term impact of siloxane exposures to human health are urgently needed,” they conclude. The products may also affect the atmosphere in urban areas, they write, contributing up to six tons of such emissions to the atmosphere every year in the United States.
 

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What is the oily sheen covering Vancouver’s False Creek?
Coast Guard investigating rainbow sheen clearly visible to commuters crossing Cambie Bridge on Tuesday morning

Author of the article:The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
Published Dec 05, 2023 • 1 minute read
A sheen of pollution can be seen on the surface of Vancouver's False Creek on Dec. 5. The Canadian Coast Guard says it's trying to identify the source of the sheen and a diesel smell that was reported Monday evening.
A sheen of pollution can be seen on the surface of Vancouver's False Creek on Dec. 5. The Canadian Coast Guard says it's trying to identify the source of the sheen and a diesel smell that was reported Monday evening. PHOTO BY IAN YOUNG /THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Canadian Coast Guard says it’s trying to identify the source of a diesel smell and sheen covering Vancouver’s False Creek.


It says it received a report of the apparent pollution around 6:20 p.m. Monday, but couldn’t determine the source due to heavy rain and poor visibility.


The rainbow sheen was clearly visible to commuters crossing Cambie Bridge Tuesday morning.

Michelle Imbeau, a spokeswoman with the Coast Guard, says crew members from their Kitsilano base were using “remotely piloted aircraft” to determine the source.

She says they observed “multiple patches of non-recoverable rainbow sheen” in the area, but were still unable to work out where it was coming from.

Imbeau says the Coast Guard is working with the province and the City of Vancouver to determine if the pollution came from land-based outfalls from recent heavy rain.
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More bodies found after sudden eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Marapi, raising confirmed toll to 22
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Mardi Rosa Tanjung
Published Dec 05, 2023 • 2 minute read
Rescuers searching the hazardous slopes of Indonesia's Marapi volcano found more bodies among the climbers caught by a surprise eruption two days ago.
BATU PALANO, Indonesia (AP) — Rescuers searching the hazardous slopes of Indonesia’s Mount Marapi volcano found 11 more bodies of climbers who were caught by a surprise weekend eruption, raising the number of confirmed dead to 22, officials said Tuesday. One person remained missing.


More than 50 climbers were rescued after the initial eruption Sunday, and 11 others were initially confirmed dead. New eruptions on Monday and Tuesday spewed more hot ash as high as 800 meters (2,620 feet) into the air, reducing visibility and temporarily halting search and recovery operations, said Abdul Malik, chief of the Padang Search and Rescue Agency.


The bodies of two climbers were located on Monday and nine more on Tuesday, the National Search and Rescue Agency said.

One climber remained missing and was presumed dead because of being very close to the eruption site, said Edi Mardianto, the deputy police chief in West Sumatra province.

The recovered bodies will be taken to a hospital for identification, he said.


The rescuers contended with bad weather and difficult terrain, along with winds that brought heat from the eruptions.

A video released by West Sumatra’s Search and Rescue Agency showed rescuers carrying an injured climber on a stretcher off the mountain and into a waiting ambulance to be taken to a hospital.

Marapi has stayed at the third highest of four alert levels since 2011, indicating above-normal volcanic activity under which climbers and villagers must stay more than 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the peak, according to Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation.

Officially, climbers were only allowed below the danger zone and had to register at two command posts or online. However, local officials acknowledge that many people may have climbed higher than permitted and villagers may also have been in the area, making the number of people stranded by the eruption difficult to confirm.


Marapi spewed thick columns of ash as high as 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) in Sunday’s eruption and hot ash clouds spread for several kilometers (miles). Nearby villages and towns were blanketed by tons of volcanic debris that blocked sunlight, and authorities recommended that people wear masks to protect themselves from the ash.

About 1,400 people live on Marapi’s slopes in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages, about 5 to 6 kilometers (3 to 3.7 miles) from the peak.

Marapi is known for sudden eruptions that are difficult to predict because the source is shallow and near the peak, and its eruptions are not caused by a deep movement of magma, which sets off tremors that register on seismic monitors.

Marapi has been active since a January eruption that caused no casualties. It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.


 

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Family sues Panera, saying its caffeinated lemonade led to Florida man’s cardiac arrest
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Dec 06, 2023 • 2 minute read
The family of a 46-year-old Florida man has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Panera, claiming its caffeine-filled lemonade drink led to his death.
The family of a 46-year-old Florida man has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Panera, claiming its caffeine-filled lemonade drink led to his death.
FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — The family of a 46-year-old Florida man has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against one of the biggest fast-casual restaurant chains in the U.S., claiming Panera Bread Company’s caffeine-filled lemonade drink led to his death.


David Brown had high blood pressure and didn’t drink energy drinks, but the lawsuit said he believed the Panera Charged Lemonade was safe since it was not advertised as an energy drink. It was offered in the same place as the restaurant chain’s non-caffeinated or less-caffeinated drinks, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Superior Court in Delaware, where Panera Bread Company is registered.


The lawsuit states that on Oct. 9, Brown had the drink three times during a visit to the Panera Bread Company location in Fleming Island, Florida. On his walk home, he suffered cardiac arrest and died a short time later. He had ordered a Panera Charged Lemonade at least seven times over the course of two weeks in September and October, according to the lawsuit.


“Defendants knew or should have known that the Panera Charged Lemonade, as designed and formulated, once consumed, could injure children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people sensitive to caffeine by causing catastrophic injuries and/or death,” the lawsuit said.

No one from Panera’s corporate offices responded to an inquiry seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

Brown had a chromosomal deficiency disorder, developmental delays, some blurred vision and mild intellectual disability, the lawsuit said. He had worked for 17 years at Publix Super Markets and would regularly go to the Panera restaurant after work for meals, as many as three times a week, because the lawsuit said he felt the chain advertised as being a healthy alternative to other restaurants.

Another wrongful death lawsuit was filed in October by the family of 21-year-old Sarah Katz, a University of Pennsylvania student with a heart condition who died in September 2022 after consuming the drink, according to media reports.

The privately-held Panera Bread Company, which is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, operates in 48 U.S. states and Canada.
 

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Indonesia ends search for more victims of volcanic eruption that killed 23 climbers
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Mardi Rosa Tanjung
Published Dec 06, 2023 • 2 minute read

BATU PALANO, Indonesia — The search has ended for more victims among climbers who were caught by a weekend eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Marapi volcano that killed 23 people and injured several others, officials said Thursday.


About 75 climbers started up the nearly 2,900-metre mountain in Agam district of West Sumatra province on Saturday and were on the volcano when it erupted the following day.


West Sumatra Police Chief Suharyono said earlier that the discovery of the body of a female university student Wednesday had raised the confirmed death toll to 23. Officials said Thursday that they believed all the dead had been recovered.



After an evaluation of the search and rescue results, “authorities have ended the search and rescue operation in Mount Marapi as all the victims have been found by late Wednesday,” said Abdul Muhari, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson.


The National Search and Rescue Agency said all the bodies had been taken to a hospital by late Wednesday for identification.

Some 52 climbers were rescued after the initial eruption Sunday, with about a dozen taken to hospitals with serious to minor injuries.

Marapi shot thick columns of ash as high as 3,000 metres in Sunday’s eruption and hot ash clouds spread for several kilometres. Nearby villages and towns were blanketed by volcanic debris that blocked sunlight, and authorities recommended people wear masks as protection against the ash.

Smaller eruptions since then spewed more ash into the air, reducing visibility and temporarily halting search and recovery operations.

Marapi is known for sudden eruptions that are difficult to predict because they are not caused by a deep movement of magma, which sets off tremors that register on seismic monitors.


The volcano has been at Indonesia’s second highest alert level since 2011, indicating above-normal volcanic activity under which climbers and villagers must stay more than 3 km from the peak, according to Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation.

Climbers were not supposed to advance into the danger zone, but local officials acknowledged that many people may have climbed higher than permitted.

Marapi, which had an eruption in January that caused no casualties, is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia. The country is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
 

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Extremely rare white leucistic alligator born at Florida reptile park
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Dec 08, 2023 • 1 minute read
This photo provided by Gatorland shows a white-skinned, leucistic alligator
This photo provided by Gatorland shows a white-skinned, leucistic alligator. PHOTO BY KEN GUZZETTI /Gatorland via AP
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — An extremely rare white leucistic alligator has been born at a Florida reptile park.


The 19.2-inch (49 cm) female slithered out of its shell and into the history books as one of only seven known leucistic alligators, Gatorland Orlando said Thursday. Three of the seven are at the park, officials there said.


“This is beyond rare. It is absolutely extraordinary,” Mark McHugh, president and CEO of Gatorland, said in a statement.

The park is asking for the public’s help in the naming the alligator, which is descended from a nest of leucistic alligators discovered in the swamps of Louisiana in 1987. The blue-eyed newborn is the first solid white alligator ever recorded to have descended from those original alligators, McHugh said.

Leucistic alligators are the rarest genetic variation in the American alligator. They differ from albino alligators, which have pink eyes and a complete loss of pigment, according to Gatorland.

Park visitors will be able to see the leucistic alligator and her normal-coloured brother early next year.

“For now, however, we continue to keep them safe where we can closely monitor their health and growth,” McHugh said.
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What's behind odd taste, smell in some London, Ont.-area tap water?
If you live between south London and Lake Erie, you might think something's wrong with your drinking water.

Author of the article:Brian Williams • Local Journalism Initiative reporter
Published Dec 07, 2023 • Last updated 2 days ago • 3 minute read

If you live between south London and Lake Erie, you might think something’s wrong with your drinking water.


Turns out your taste buds may be correct, but it’s not cause for alarm, the area’s point man on water says, and the tap water is just fine.


Complaints have flown online in recent weeks about a plastic-like taste and smell to the water in St. Thomas and nearby communities, including parts of south London – an area served by the same drinking water system that draws from Lake Erie.

Eden Sponagle of St. Thomas is among those who’ve noticed the change. She said she first detected something was “going on” with her tap water Nov. 20 as she brushed her teeth “and all I could taste was plastic.”

The mother of two said she contacted the city and was told it could be something called “a seasonal lake turnover event.” She was skeptical, she said, because of the smell.


“Typically, a seasonal water event would produce a case that is more along the lines of earthy and musty, not plastic,” Sponagle said, adding she was told by the city a lake turnover test came back negative.

That left Sponagle concerned for her family, especially her children.

So, what exactly is a lake turnover event?

And why, if it’s affecting water drawn from Lake Erie, isn’t it also turning up in water supplied to other parts of the London area, including the city, by a massive water system from Lake Huron?


Andrew Henry, who oversees the systems that deliver water to the London region, said there’s no cause for alarm but that some consumers are likely noticing a turnover event, a temporary phenomenon when the seasons change between warm and cold and one for which the water is treated.


“(In the) fall we get what we call lake turnover events, where the lower levels of lake water will get turned up, and that affects the taste and the odour of the water itself,” said Henry, director of regional water for the Lake Huron and Elgin Area Primary Water Supply Systems.

A similar thing can happen in the spring, he said, but it’s more common in the fall and results from drastic shifts in water and air temperature, often coupled with storms that stir up the lake water and produce odd tastes and smells.

Erie is the shallowest and smallest of the Great Lakes by surface area, so the seasonal change is more pronounced there, Henry said, than in Lake Huron, which is deeper and larger.

Like Sponagle, Kelsey McGuire of New Sarum, east of St. Thomas, posted online that she had a similar experience involving the tap water in her home on Nov. 22.


“About two and a half weeks ago, we noticed a plasticky kind of smell and taste to the water,” she said. “It’s definitely concerning that it could be making us sick, or do damage that we’re not aware of.”

Henry stressed the water poses no risk to human health, and that a turnover can produce varying tastes and smells and last for a few days up to a few weeks. He said indicators suggest a turnover has occurred, although that was not confirmed a few weeks ago.

A water quality bulletin posted by the Lake Erie portion of the regional water system notes that treatment changes are made as needed to deal with changes in the water, including increased use of powder activated carbon – it gets filtered out before the water moves on to taps – to combat strong tastes or odours.

Henry said some consumers are quick to notice changes to the smell of water, but the treatment is effective.

“Sometimes, what happens is that you get these other smells that are quite intense, so plastic-like smells can be quite intense and people will pick it up quite quickly,” he said.

bwilliams@postmedia.com

@BrianWatLFPress
 

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Death toll rises to five in cantaloupe salmonella outbreak, as cases almost double
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Dec 07, 2023 • Last updated 2 days ago • 1 minute read

OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada says the death toll has risen to five in a salmonella outbreak linked to Malichita and Rudy brand cantaloupes.


It says 129 people have been confirmed with salmonella linked to the outbreak, almost double the number at the last update on Dec. 1, when a single death had been recorded.


The agency provided no details on the deaths in its latest update on Thursday, but cases have risen sharply in Quebec, with 91 confirmed infections compared to 35 last week.

There are also 17 cases in Ontario, 15 in British Columbia, and 2 each in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The agency issued food recall warnings three times in November for Malichita cantaloupes sold between Oct. 11 and Nov. 14.

On Nov. 24, it updated its warning to include Rudy brand cantaloupes sold between Oct. 10 and Nov. 24.
 

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Developer launches constitutional challenge of law returning Greenbelt lands
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Allison Jones
Published Dec 15, 2023 • 2 minute read
of one of the 15 properties removed from -- then returned to -- the Greenbelt is challenging a law that reversed Premier Doug Ford's plan to open the land up for development as unconstitutional.
The owner of one of the 15 properties removed from — then returned to — the Greenbelt has launched a constitutional challenge of a law that reversed Premier Doug Ford’s plan to open up the protected land for development.


Lawyers for Minotar Holdings Inc. filed the application Thursday in Ontario’s Divisional Court, arguing that the way the law is written violates “the constitutional principle of the rule of law.”


The Greenbelt Statute Law Amendment Act is the legislation fulfilling Ford’s promise to restore Greenbelt protections to 15 parcels of land. His government had removed them last year, but scathing auditor general and integrity commissioner reports found the process unfairly favoured certain developers and Ford was forced to reverse course.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra has boasted that the law also enhances protection of the Greenbelt “to an unprecedented degree” by requiring any future boundary changes to be done through legislation rather than regulation.


The original Greenbelt Act and subsequent changes have set and amended the protected area’s boundaries through regulation, a process that allows for judicial review of the government’s actions, Minotar lawyer Paul Fruitman said.

This government’s change actually immunizes it from judicial oversight, he charges.

“They’ve taken this step to try to prevent any review of what they’ve done with the Greenbelt,” Paul Fruitman said in an interview. “What makes it, in my view, in my submission, quite egregious is that it’s being done to save their political fortunes.”

Minotar wants the court to judicially review how its land has been treated. The developers have long held that their property in Markham, Ont., was incorrectly included in the Greenbelt in the first place when the protected swath of land was established in 2005.


But while there is language in the Greenbelt Statute Law Amendment Act saying the right for judicial review is preserved, Fruitman said statutes can’t be judicially reviewed. Regulations can be, he said.

“They have to, as a matter of law, preserve that right, but what they’ve done here is made that right illusive because by putting it in legislation as opposed to regulation, you can’t say, ‘I want to judicially review the statute.”‘

Minotar sued the province in 2017 for $120 million over the land’s inclusion in the Greenbelt.

When the government set about removing land from the Greenbelt last year for the purpose of housing development, civil servants identified the Minotar property as one candidate. A political staffer serving at the time as chief of staff to the then-housing minister identified the other 14, reports from the auditor general and integrity commissioner have found.


Minotar and the government agreed late last year that removing 37 acres of their 210-acre property from the Greenbelt would settle the lawsuit, which had been set to go to trial in the spring of this year.

But then the legislation from this year returning all of the 15 parcels of land to the Greenbelt prevented affected developers from seeking remedies for the reversal — Minotar says it spent $400,000 on pre-development work before the reversal was announced — and contains a clause retroactively voiding their settlement.

“The province is ripping up a contract, effectively, in order to save itself politically,” Fruitman said.

A spokesperson for the housing minister did not respond to a request for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2023.
 

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Concern rises over number of Canadian seniors going lost or missing due to dementia
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Morgan Lowrie
Published Dec 16, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 4 minute read

MONTREAL — The number of older people reported missing in Canada is raising an alarm bell for advocates, who warn the problem will only get worse as the population ages and more people are diagnosed with dementia or cognitive impairments


While fewer older adults were reported missing during the COVID-19 pandemic, police forces in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are among those that have seen an increase this year in missing people over the age of 60.


Laura Tamblyn Watts, the CEO of seniors advocacy organization CanAge, said an aging population means more seniors are getting lost. And police statistics tell only part of the story, she said, because most people are found by family and caregivers before police are called.

“Reports by police should be seen as the tip of the iceberg,” Tamblyn Watts said in a phone interview. “But that iceberg is getting bigger, so the number of people in that tip is getting significantly bigger as well.”

The Canadian Press requested data from police forces across Canada on the number of people 60 and over who were reported missing. Most did not respond by deadline, or said the statistics were unavailable, but data from those that did suggest numbers may be rising.


Montreal police received 442 missing persons calls for people 60 and over between January and the beginning of September this year, compared with 339 over the same period in 2022. In 2020, the number for the same period was 224. In Manitoba, RCMP reported 105 missing persons reports for those over 60 as of Dec. 1, compared to 61 in all of 2022.

Winnipeg police said there were 104 people 60 and over reported missing as of early December, compared with 125 for all of 2022 and 64 in 2019. All of them were found, the force added.

Saskatoon police — the only force to provide a breakdown by medical status — said the number of missing people aged 65 and over with medical disabilities and cognitive impairments rose from 18 in 2022 to 26 in 2023, still well below the 47 people in 2019.


Tamblyn Watts said that approximately 60 per cent of people with cognitive impairments wander, putting them at risk of going missing. “If an older person is gone for more than 24 hours, it’s about a 50/50 chance that they’re going to be at significant harm to their life, so this is a life-and-death situation,” she said.

Antonio Miguel-Cruz, an associate professor at University of Alberta’s faculty of rehabilitation medicine, says “nobody knows with any accuracy” how many Canadians with dementia go missing every year.

Miguel-Cruz, working with a team based at the University of Waterloo, has been trying to compile those numbers with data from health information company MedicAlert, from police and search and rescue organizations and from home care facilities. He said the preliminary data shows that between 50,000 to 60,000 people with dementia in a database of almost 1.6 million Canadians have been reported missing, or about three per cent. That percentage may be low, “but the volume is big,” he said.


He said it’s clear that finding people consumes “tremendous” police resources.

National data compiled by the RCMP shows that the number of missing persons reported by police forces dropped from 5,706 in 2019 to 4,519 in 2020, which was directly related to people staying home due to COVID-19, according to RCMP intelligence analyst Valerie Shaver.

Last year, the numbers started creeping back up, reaching 4,667. As of Dec. 8 this year, there had been 4,507 such reports. Shaver notes that the RCMP data only includes cases reported to the Canadian Police Information Centre and may miss instances where a person was found quickly.

She examined a random sample of 64 RCMP files of missing people aged 60 and over from this year and found that dementia, mental health, Alzheimer’s and “confused, lost or wandered off,” were the top four reasons listed for the disappearances.


Cities and police forces have adapted different strategies to locate people quickly. Some, including Toronto, Halifax, Windsor, Ont., and Saskatoon, have started vulnerable persons registries that contain a person’s photo and information about them that can help if they’re found.

The RCMP is working with experts and other police forces to develop guidelines for officers to carry out interviews with people who are found, in order to better understand what happened.

Some jurisdictions, including in Manitoba, have adopted silver alert systems that broadcast notices, similar to an Amber Alert for abducted children, in cases of seniors who wander because of Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, CanAge’s Tamblyn Watts is among those who worry about alert fatigue.


“The stark reality for why we don’t have silver alerts everywhere is if you are trying to find every person who was lost with dementia you would have your phone pinging almost constantly,” she said.

Tamblyn Watts said that many families are using medical alert bracelets or GPS trackers such as AirTags to ensure that loved ones who wander are found quickly.

Her tips for those who come across an older adult who appears agitated or confused include taking off your glasses and hat to appear more approachable, speaking slowly and non-confrontationally, asking if they need help and checking if they have identification, such as a MedicAlert bracelet.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada forecasts on its website that by 2030, nearly 1 million people in Canada will be living with dementia, rising to 1.7 million by 2050. With those numbers, Tamblyn Watts said it’s “baffling” that Canada hasn’t done more to prepare, including creating a national seniors strategy.

What’s needed, she said, are better health care and supports, “dementia-friendly communities” where everyone is trained to recognize the signs of cognitive impairment and reviews of how services are provided “to make sure that we are serving our population, which has increased longevity.”
 

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word limit :(
 

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Dixie Cup

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My girlfriend who lives in Winnipeg was found wondering around the streets after her husband passed away. The cops were called and they took her to the Seven Oaks Hospital where she was diagnosed with dementia. They've since found a facility for her but it was a scary thought, her wondering around, not knowing where she was or where she lived.

After not hearing from her for awhile & trying to get in contact, I asked the Winnipeg City Police for a "welfare check" and received a call shortly afterwards telling me where she was. She has no relatives there so she's by herself with no one to watch out for her.

I was skyping her every week but she doesn't know me anymore so I just check in once a month to ensure she's being taken care of.

So yes, the issue of "wondering seniors" is definitely a concern.
 
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