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katydids seem to be real shutterbugs

A little green katydid perched on my elbow at 7:30 a.m. this morning.

Saturday morning (August 19) I was half-dozing in my parkade sleeping spot and out of the corner of one sleepy eye I thought I saw, perching lightly on my right elbow. a little, lime green, drumming katydid. I opened both eyes to get a good look and yes–I did! I did see a katydid! Read more…

A warm welcome for the return of clouds

Now that’s more like it. Vancouver skies at 7:30 a.m.

The singular brownish-grey haze of woodsmoke that hung over Vancouver for nearly two weeks has been gone for five days now and the atypically naked blue skies that resulted have only lasted four days. Today (August 18) our usual cloud cover finally returned and not a moment too soon.

Summer is ending and the overnight low is beginning it’s long autumnal slide towards the freezer-in-the-basement that is winter. Read more…

Looking forward to the PNE, the rain and an end to a record wildfire season

Small painting from the alleys showing a conifer forest against a red sky.

The smokey haze over Vancouver the last two weeks may be gone—washed away by overnight rain between August the 12th and 13th—but this week I came across  another reminder of the wildfires burning in British Columbia’s Central Interior.

On Tuesday (August 15), in a Fairview back alley, I found a small, abandoned painting depicting, in thick strokes, a forest of conifer trees set against an ominous red sky.

There aren’t any flames visible in the red sky—only two doughty little clouds—so I can’t claim that the painter of this oil-on-canvas-board was trying to illustrate a wildfire.

All I can speak to is what I see, which is an impasto sky painted red by the glow from a wall of flame advancing on even more of our trees! Read more…

Some of the racism separating Americans in Trump’s USA

This morning (August 16th) I was angered to read on Twitter how a group of African-Americans attending a retreat in Michigan, USA, found themselves suddenly segregated from white patrons in the retreat’s dining area by what looked like a hastily-erected wall of cubicle dividers:

“These white people really put a wall up to separate us cause they were “uncomfortable”. It’s 2017 and we still gotta deal with this smh.”

The August 13th Tweet, which included photos of the impromptu barrier seemed to be one more glimpse into the Pandora’s Box of bigotry and racism that Donald Trump’s election as U.S. President has opened up south of the border.

Twitter user Landon, the author of the Tweet, explained that he was part of a nonprofit group called Greening of Detroit that mentors urban youth. His group had paid $25,000 to take a group of kids camping for the weekend at the Kettunen Center, a lakefront retreat located in northern Michigan.

“I work with a nonprofit and we went on a camping trip and we’ve had to deal with these racist white people the whole weekend for no reason,” Landon explained to one of the many commenters to his shocking Tweet. Read more…

Reign of flies—a poem for the back alleys

Open the lid of a dumpster and inside,
A cloud of flies disturbed into flight,
Make the “pit-pat” sound of rain,
As they collide with paper and plastic and metal.
But there are no clouds and there is no rain,
To wash away the heat and haze and stink.

Global shortage of hepatitis B vaccine yet to be felt in Canada?

As Merck’s Recombivax HB goes, so goes the world’s supply of hepatitis B vaccine?

The Guardian website reports (August 7) that a global shortage of hepatitis B vaccine, caused by manufacturing difficulties, has led Public Health England (PHE) to restrict vaccine access to those people at the highest risk of contracting hepatitis B.

The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) affects the liver and is easily transmitted by contact with infected body fluids. It is both preventable and treatable and a majority of people will spontaneously clear the infection. However, chronic HBV infections can lead to life-threatening complications for the carrier, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, as well as the increased risk of infecting other people.

HBV is endemic in the UK but at a low carriage rate of between 0.1-0.5 percent, which, as with Canada, varies depending on the group and the area of the country.

Usually, explains the Guardian, the vaccine is offered and/or given to those in the UK at specific risk of being exposed to body fluids from infected persons, such as babies born to mothers who are infected with HBV, the sexual partners of infected individuals, men who have sex with men, healthcare workers and intravenous drug users.

The Guardian quotes a Public Health England’s (PHE) spokesperson as explaining:

“The most common route of transmission is when a baby is born to a mother who has it but the paediatric vaccine is not affected by the shortage.”

The most common transmission route of HBV infections also carries the highest risk, both to individuals and society, according to the UK’s Heath Safety Executive website:

“The likelihood of a patient developing chronic infection is inversely related to age at the time of infection. Chronic infection occurs in at least 90% of infected neonates, 25% of children aged 1-5 years and 5% or less of adults. Chronically infected individuals are often referred to as HBV carriers.”

PHE’s temporary recommendations for use of the hepatitis B vaccine during the supply constraint, released August 4th, prioritize post-exposure over pre-exposure, according to risk and urgency:

  1. Infants born to hepatitis B infected mothers.
  2. Exposure to body fluids from known acute case of hepatitis B, through needlestick or sexual contact.
  3. Injuries from discarded needles, sexual assault, or a major incident.
    1. Clinical healthcare workers with regular exposure to blood.
    2. Sex workers, MSM (gay men) with multiple partners, PWID (people who inject drugs), prisoners, people traveling to endemic countries for medical treatment and renal dialysis patients.
  4. Household contacts of people with hepatitis B, most other health care workers and occupations at risk of percutaneous exposures.
    1. People traveling to medium and high endemicity countries.
  5. Boosting and reinforcing doses for people who have completed a primary three-dose course of immunization.

But if the UK’s public healthcare system has seen the need to put in place written guidelines to ration access in the face of a global shortage of hepatitis B vaccine, there is no sign of Canada’s Medicare system following suit.

There are indications that Canada is affected by the hepatitis B vaccine shortage but there is very little to suggest that either our provincial or federal levels of governments are terribly concerned at this point.

Ironically, July 28, was, in Canada and elsewhere, World Hepatitis Day.

Read more…