Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Dieting Conscientiously

"It  appears that Canadians are still somewhat attached  to meat consumption generally speaking. But more and more Canadians are reconsidering their relationship with animal-based protein."
"[Men with less education more likely to agree] I am a big fan of meat in general. Eating meat is a manly thing, let's face it. It's always been portrayed as a manly thing to do."
"[Overall] If you earn more, if you are a woman, if you are more educated, you are less likely to be attached to meat. [As such, society is experiencing] the womanization of protein consumption."
"Last week in my MBA class I had Sobeys CEO [and president] Michael Medline and seven of his top executives. Three of them were women. The influence of women in the industry is becoming more and more apparent."
Sylvain Charlebois, professor, food distribution and policy, Dalhousie University, Halifax
Three-quarters of Canadians surveyed strongly or somewhat agree that, €œas humans, it is natural to eat meat.€ Getty Images

"The younger generation is not so interested in the health but the humanitarian approach to the way we're feeding ourselves."
"You don't mind a cow in the green field with the blue sky above and the tree and the sun -- what every kindergarten kid draws."
"But when you come to a mechanized abattoir, that's not such fun. There's no blue sky, no happy, prancing [cattle]. And I think that's a big grassroots change among the young."
"No one has said ‘eat more beef and grow strong’, which is what they said in the 1930s. No one is saying that anymore."
Dr. David Jenkins, nutrition scientist, University of Toronto
A new survey has just released its results on Canadians' attitudes toward meat consumption in the daily diet of the nation. Once taken for granted that at least one meal of the day would be built around meat as the main course with a few vegetables thrown in for colour and the grudging nod at good health choices, Canadians appear increasingly to turn their faces away from constant meat meals seeking out protein substitutes instead. Vegetables may be shown by science to indicate pain when they're harvested, but it is the suffering of the animal kingdom in service to the appetite of humans that has convinced more people increasingly, to forgo meat, either in part or totally.

The survey points out that 6.4 million Canadians have undertaken personal restrictions in their diet or have taken the initiative to eliminate meat entirely from their meals. A third of the population has future plans to do likewise. Three-quarters of those surveyed strongly or somewhat agreed that "as humans, it is natural to eat meat"; furthermore, that the consumption of meat represents "a natural and balanced diet". The principal investigator, Sylvain Charlebois, notes the traditional Canadian attachment to animal protein, but notes also that the tradition is beginning to give way.

Early in the year, Health Canada which is preparing to bring out the latest edition of its food guide this coming month, had urged a generalized move to a "high proportion" of plant-based foods on the dinner plate, abstaining from excluding animal-based protein entirely. The new food guide, however is expected to take leave from its omnivore position in its "guiding principles", leaning more toward veganism. A move that will puzzle and even infuriate many, while giving a modicum of satisfaction to many others in what is seen as a cultural "protein war" situation.

In the preliminary version encouragement is given to replacing foods containing mostly saturated fat with foods known to contain unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, avocados); leaving dairy and red meat, the primary sources of saturated fat, behind. Canada is not alone in its move toward replacing animal protein with protein from plant sources. But until the release of the new food guide by Health Canada it isn't known just how much the dairy and ranch industries will be affected, though they have been busy with push-back in anticipation of a reduction in choice of their products.

Researchers attached to the study surveyed 1,027 adults in September over a three-day period, with the involvement of principals at the University of Guelph. Close to half of those surveyed claimed they consume meat or meat-containing products daily, while 40 percent said once or twice weekly suffices their meat consumption need. Another two percent labelled themselves vegetarians, and one percent vegans (no animal-based products), while another one percent claimed lacto-ovo vegetarian status (no animal flesh; eggs and milk permitted).

Fifty-one percent stated their willingness to consider reducing meat in their diet at some future date. Women, perhaps predictably, were most likelier than men to agree that in their opinion meat can be replaced with other protein sources. As it is, Canadians have reduced meat intake since 2004 to the point where in Canada today, consumption levels match those of Mediterranean countries "places where diets are widely recognized as being amongst the healthiest worldwide", noted Marie-France Mackinnon of the Canadian Meat Council.
Among the survey’s other findings:
• 63 per cent of vegans are under age 38 (millennials and Gen Ys);
• 42 per cent of “flexitarians” (flexible vegetarianism, with the odd serving of meat) are boomers;
• Younger and more educated are less likely to love meat;
• Few consider insects an appealing alternative to meat, although Atlantic Canadians and Quebecers seem more open to eating bugs.

Image result for the womanization of protein consumption
Loma Linda University, Vegetarian Food Pyramid

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Lifetime Brand Enthusiasts

"The numbers are shocking. These are not your grandmother's commercials. Food and beverage manufacturers have neuro-psychologists working with them. They use MRIs. It's hard to defend yourself against ads."
"We have seen a huge proliferation of ads online. Entertainment is blended with marketing. It's hard for children to understand that they're being marketed to."
"Children 11, 12 and 13 years old are doing the work of a marketing firm when they're forwarding [ads for their favourite products] things to their friends. To identify with a brand helps to define who you are. Kids love these brands."
"Children's exposure to food and beverage advertising has actually increased. People who work in marketing are extremely creative."
Monique Potvin Kent, assistant professor, University of Ottawa School of Epidemiology and Public Health

"There is no silver bullet, but this will help [Bill S-228 before Parliament]."
"The advertisers know it works [ads designed to capture children's attention, imagination and loyalty]. If you create a customer by the age of ten, you have a dedicated customer for life."
Nancy Greene Raine, retired Conservative senator, former Olympian
Getty Images/iStockphoto
A single glass of apple juice contains the same amount of sugar as four or five apples do, without any of the fibre
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dr. Potvin Kent led a new study by University of Ottawa researchers, the result of which concluded that 72 percent of children and youth, fixated on social media, get somewhat more than exposure to all the things that grasp the attention of the young focused on media stars, performing celebrities and the latest trends in fashion, when they are consistently and closely bombarded with advertisements by food and beverage manufacturers who pay the online freight for their 'free' access to those social media sites.

Within a ten-minute session on line the number of ads directed at children has appalled the researchers, for their prevalence and in-your-face boldness. For the backbone of their project, the researchers recruited just over a hundred children and teens living in Ottawa between the ages of seven and 15 from four community centres. Instructed to make use of their own smartphone or tablet in accessing favourite social media sites for two periods lasting five minutes each, the study began.

Wearing special eyeglasses to capture what the recruits viewed on line -- later reviewed by the researchers -- each of the participants saw 2.1 ads within each ten-minute snapshot. Young social media users, it was calculated from that base figure, would be exposed to over a dozen food and beverage offerings each hour online. The researchers identified fully 90 percent of the products the ads promoted fell heavily into an unhealthy category. As for example:
  • A 'unicorn frappuccino' cake made by Rosanna Pansino on a Starbucks theme on YouTube;
  • A 'memory test' on YouTube revolving around the brand logos of corporations like Burger King and Snickers;
  • The YTV actress Torri Webster's Instagram account promoting points collections at Cineplex Theatres to exchange for concession snacks;
  • An Instagram ad for McDonald's inviting users to list which friend they would share french fries with: "The #holidays are for sharing and so are our fries."
Video bloggers posting items on YouTube, points out Dr. Potvin Kent, become media personalities with those collecting large followings signing sponsorship deals to feature branded products "embedded" in their content like competitive eater Matt Stonie's celebrity status garnering profit via "food challenges".
A report from the Heart and Stroke foundation recommends curtailing advertising of unhealthy food to children. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.

Children, studies confirm, through such exposure by age two can appreciate and identify brands. It takes an growing awareness by the age of six for children to understand that advertising represents a sales pitch, but it takes until age 11 or 12 before they begin critically evaluating what they see. Until then they follow their favourite products on social media, encouraging their friends to do so as well.

At the present time, food and beverage marketing to children remains self-regulated through the voluntary Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. Through purely voluntary adherence to the regulatory guidelines companies pledge exclusive advertising of "healthier" products to children under age twelve. Yet through what is seen as lenient nutrition criteria and high audience thresholds of 35 percent children in the audience, the pledge is honoured more in the breach than reality.

The very day that Bill S-228 seeking to amend the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit food and beverage marketing directed at children thirteen and under, was being debated in Parliament, was the day the new study on children and advertising for food and beverages was released. Should the bill become law, Health Canada would be tasked with creating regulations to fit the bill.

The fact that childhood obesity has doubled since the 1970s in Canada and overweight and obese children become at risk of chronic conditions such as sleep apnea, joint problems, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease represents a spur that prompted Nancy Greene Raine, Canadian skier who won World Cup and Olympic gold in giant slalom in 1968, to sponsor the bill.

In Quebec, the provincial Consumer Protection Act prohibits commercial advertising targeting children under age 13. Chile announced tough marketing restrictions last February, inclusive of removing cartoon characters from cereal boxes and banning candy sales such as Kinder Surprise using trinkets to snare children's attention.

A McDonald’s cheeseburger Happy Meal with the new apple slices option is shown     (Keith Srakocic/AP)

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Life Over-Stimulating Anxiety

"There's no question in my mind anxiety levels are increasing."
"Life is about facing challenges, it's not only about being happy. But people are very pain-averse. People want to be comfortable and they want to be happy, but if you chase happiness by trying to push aside anything that's unpleasant and upsetting in your life, the irony is that it actually comes back with a vengeance."
"Everyone is sizing themselves up against somebody else. 'Why is everybody so happy and I' so miserable'?"
"Most of all, frankly, we don't have the level of adversity we used to [have]."
Dr. David H. Rosmarin, department of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

"Although U.S. presidential elections occur every four years, the 2016 election was perhaps the most polarizing and emotionally evocative political event for young people in recent history."
2018 Study, Journal of American College Health
Almost 40% of Americans are more anxious than they were at this time last year, according to a new American Psychiatric Association (APA) poll.  Peechaya Burroughs for TIME

"[Up to 30 to 50 percent of anxiety disorders are heritable] and heritable disorders would not change their clinical picture substantially over decades or centuries."
"[More people are seeking treatment, thus anxiety appears more common]."
2015 Study, Dialogues in Clinical Neurosciences

"[In Canada], there is a widely held belief -- I personally don't think it has a strong basis in evidence -- that there has been a deterioration in mental health, that there's more depression or more anxiety afflicting people than has occurred in the past."
"As an epidemiologist, we just haven't been able to say that in Canada. In Canada, a lot of parents and grandparents are immigrants and they came in and were eating fried potato peels and trying to scrounge and make a buck and sell what they could."
"Now we have a lot of luxuries. We're not used to facing adversity."
Dr. Scott Patten, professor of psychiatry, University of Calgary
"We shouldn't expect an anxiety-free life. It's adaptive to feel anxious. People say, 'well, isn't this an unusually anxiety-provoking time?"
"I would invite those people to think about what it was like to be in Nazi Germany. Or what it's like today to be in Syria, or on the road from Africa to Europe because you don't have food to eat and you're afraid of being attacked by pirates."
"We live in an unusually privileged moment in time and place. We don't live in a period of stress anywhere near where people have lived in historically, or that people are suffering from around the world."
"That's not pathological. That's part of life [to be concerned about worrying things happening]."
Dr. Allen Frances, professor emeritus of psychiatry, Duke University
iStock Photo

None of these experts is blase about what worrying does to peoples' minds, none shrug off the phenomenon of anxiety and how it eats away at our individual and collective sense of security by mouthing the platitude "don't worry, be happy", that flippant, anodyne phrase that was so abrasively popular not that long ago. It's possible that since that very phrase first made its entrance on the media cycle of the time that the world in general and thus the world that people experience has become a more difficult place to struggle within.

But it is studies taking place in North America, in Canada and the United States, that point out that in those wealthy, regulated, peaceful and democratic nations people are becoming increasingly stressed by what they perceive as both world affairs and those of their own. In Canada a poll of 1,500 people recently found that 41 percent of those surveyed spoke of themselves as "someone who struggles with anxiety", while a third stated they had been diagnosed with anxiety and a similar number had anti-depressants prescribed for them.

In the United States another study was left with the impression that so many young people were psychologically traumatized after the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency that fully one-quarter of American college students were seen to be at risk of PTSD. Perhaps, the Trump election to the presidency, as unexpected as it was owes its notoriety more to the social-political atmosphere prevailing in universities and colleges and popular news reportage for this outcome than the actual election results where partisan politics has swung out of hand, both sides acidly fulminating against the other.

After all, the United States was in an uproar when it elected its first Roman Catholic president in John F. Kennedy; a peanut farmer and born-again Christian in Jimmy Carter; and a grade-B actor in Ronald Reagan. Now they have an unabashed braggart and sometimes-bully, among his finer qualities, but the election was, after all, free and fair democracy at work. The votes swung with Trump against an equally incompetent Democrat, as the American electorate saw the situation.

The real question is, what drives anxiety levels so high in both countries? Can it all be put down to the prevalence of social media intruding on everyone's perceptions and life to that great a deleterious degree? Has the turmoil in the world been greater in its dysfunction and fallout abroad than what  usually pertains? Are we so obsessed as celebrity-admiring societies that we expect our lives to be as glamorous and free of stress as we imagine the lives of the wealthy and famous to be?

The Canadian survey commissioned by Yahoo Canada and conducted by Abacus Data saw 34 percent of adult men and 47 percent of women agreeing, "I consider myself someone who struggles with anxiety", and among those between the ages of 30 and under, 70 percent of women and 53 percent of men reported feelings of stressful anxiety, while among 18- to 29-year-olds 63 percent reported feelings of high anxiety. Had the survey asked of respondents the reason they feel anxious, we all might be the wiser for it.

Among anxiety disorders is a litany of subgroups including obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) exemplified by individuals who worry excessively and uncontrollably in their everyday lives. Anxiety disorders represent the most common mental disorders, according to experts. Among women such disorders are more common, peaking in midlife, and for some the symptoms come and go, while in severe instances people can become seriously impaired.

Tellingly, it is the prevalence of anxiety that has led to a growing marketing of products meant to calm the anxiety-prone; with anxiety apps, magnetic bracelets, weighted blankets of glass beads and poly pellets -- and the final frontier of solutions-for-all, legal marijuana to still jumpy nerves. Some health professionals point out that in their expert opinion we've created a health-related scare where none really  exists in over-diagnosing anxiety, in so doing medicalizing normal anxiety that comes with life.

Objective: This study compared the prevalence of depression and the determinants of mental health service use in Canada and the United States.
Methods: The study used data from preliminary analyses of the 2003 Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health, which measured Canadian (N=3,505) and United States (N=5,183) resident ratings of health and health care services. Cross-national comparisons were made for the 12-month prevalence of DSM-IV major depression, 12-month service use for mental health reasons according to the type of professional seen, and determinants of service use.
Results: The rates of depression were similar in Canada (8.2%) and the United States (8.7%). However, U.S. respondents without medical insurance were twice as likely as Canadian respondents and U.S. respondents with medical insurance to meet the criteria for depression. Rates of mental health service use did not differ between Canada (10.1%) and the United States (10.6%). In the United States, medical insurance was not a determinant factor of service use. However, U.S. respondents with no medical insurance were more likely than the other two groups to report an unmet need. Also, among those with depression, U.S. respondents with no medical insurance were less likely to use any type of mental health service (36.5%) than U.S. respondents with medical insurance (55.7%) and Canadians (55.7%). Further, a positive correlation between a mental health need and service use was observed in Canada but not for those without medical insurance in the United States.
Conclusions: There was no difference in the prevalence of depression and mental health service use between Canada and the United States. Among those with depression, however, disparities in treatment seeking were found to be associated with medical insurance in the United States. Both Canada and the United States need to improve access to health services for those with mental disorders, and special attention is needed for those without medical insurance in the United States.
Do Canada and the United States differ in prevalence of depression and utilization of services?
Vasiliadis HM, Lesage A, Adair C, Wang PS, Kessler RC

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Dread Fear of the Unknown

"We know that this kind of unusual treatment usually indicates a fear of the undead, specifically, a fear that the dead might come back from the grave to continue to spread diseases to the living."
"Placing the stone in the child's mouth is a literal or symbolic way of incapacitating them."
"It's something that I thought a lot of while we were working on this project. It seems when humans are faced with the unknown, it's been a very common reaction throughout our entire history to react with fear."
"I really feel deeply for this community that was dealing with this epidemic when they had no understanding of it."
Jordan Wilson, bioarchaeologist, doctoral student, University of Arizona

"It must have been a situation where you don't know what's happening, you have no idea ... where you're almost trying anything in desperation and listening to whoever can come up with an answer."
"It's just genuinely eerie."
"They're sprinkling honeysuckle all over the place. There's all these magic rites that are going on around this, which makes this cemetery so fascinating."
Dr. David Soren, University of Arizona regents professor
A rock was inserted into the mouth of a 10-year-old to keep the deceased child from rising from the grave and spreading malaria, researchers believe. (Photo courtesy of David Pickel/Stanford University)
A rock was inserted into the mouth of a 10-year-old to keep the deceased child from rising from the grave and spreading malaria, researchers believe. (Photo courtesy of David Pickel/Stanford University)

The site is La Necropoli dei Bambino (Cemetery of the Babies), now abandoned, once a Roman villa turned into a massive graveyard for children somewhere around the middle of the fifth Century, where in Lugnano, Italy, the community hesitated between its pagan heritage and Christianity. The people were frozen in fear and horror, assailed by mounting deaths that seemed to have no explanation in their living memory, causing them to return to witchcraft, to bury children with fearful rituals.

Within that once-sprawling Roman villa was found  yet another miniature tomb, holding the skeleton of a ten-year-old who lived and died over 1,500 years earlier. The skeleton of the child lies on its side, mouth open, stuffed with a limestone rock, the size of an egg. Scientists believe the child died of malaria in a viral outbreak that converged on the fifth-century community once living in this tiny medieval hilltown, some 60 miles north of Rome.

A substantial number of these mysterious burials have been found, leading archaeologists to term them "vampire burials", where people of the era, terrified that  those that had died of mysterious maladies might awaken from death to move among the living and cause them in turn to die drove them to desperate action. So they buried children with stones in their mouths, an ancient ritual meant to keep the child from rising and going on to spread the deadly malady.

During that era, people confronted with dread diseases they had no previous experience with, and with no idea how to confront the cause, resorted to superstition and witchcraft in hopes of preventing the spread of a deadly disease. Further theories connect the transmission of such diseases, leaving survivors in a state of panic and overwhelming fear, with the Roman Empire's demise, extending that theory beyond, to the Attila the Hun scourge, stopped from full invasion of Italy.

The site was first revealed to Dr. Soren in 1987 when he had been at work on an entirely different project on the isle of Cyprus. At that time he had been invited to come to Lugnano in the Umbria region of Italy which was the very centre during the Roman Empire era, of practised witchcraft, and while there he encountered the remnants of the Roman villa, roughly the size of a shopping mall. There, was discovered what remained of a pyramid-shaped dining room representing slaves' quarters.

There they also discovered the remains of infants, toddlers and aborted fetuses buried along with raven talons, toad bones, ash-filled bronze cauldrons, and puppies that had been sacrificed ritually. The name that archaeologist have for such sites is "deviant burials" representing the ancient ritual of burying people feared to be in possession of supernatural powers such as returning from the dead; alternately those who violated the rules of society.

The remains of 51 children buried in such manner, uncovered by Dr. Soren and his archaeological team were seen through biomolecular tests to have perished from malaria, along with fetuses scientists believe were doomed with the disease even before birth. The ten-year-old most recently discovered last week, was the oldest of such children so far discovered. Beside that skeleton was that of a three-year-old whose hands and feet were weighted with stones; another vampire burial.

Child ‘vampire burial’ unearthed in Italy
The body of a 10-year-old child was found over the summer with a rock in its mouth. Researchers are calling it a "vampire burial." (Photo: David Pickel, Stanford University)

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Maximizing Farm Biomas Efficiency for Power Generation

"It's [the farm bioproducts biodigester he built] sort of like a big cow stomach."
"The food that cows eat is not completely digested, so we break the manure down further with bacteria to crate methane gas, or biogas, that we collect and run through generators to produce electricity."
"If you grow conventional crops, it takes up a lot of land, and the land and machinery is so expensive. So smaller farms are getting squeezed out because they can't compete with larger farms that keep expanding [making it a requirement for those smaller farms to find a niche for themselves to remain productive and in business]."
George Heinzle, 56, Terryland Farms, Inc. St-Eugene, Ontario-Quebec border
George Heinzle's biogas digester at Terryland Farms, St. Eugene, Ontario
Mr. Heinzle and his wife Linda emigrated to Canada from Austria where the concept of biodigesters usefully efficient in energy production from excrement was launched in the 1970s. The couple came to Canada 36 years ago, and 6 years after their arrival bought their 1,000 acre dairy farm. Mr. Heinzle was inspired in 2006 to build his own biodigester where manure expressed from his 300 head of dairy cattle, augmented with liquid waste from food-processing plants from the Montreal area, is fed into the thousand-cubic-metre, oxygen-free tank that has been fitted out with heating coils to keep the interior temperature at a steady 40C.

The end result is the production of electricity sufficient to provide power to up to 300 homes. The process requires roughly thirty days for the conversion from biomass into biogas, eliminating along the way odours generally associated with manure to the extent that what the output smells like cannot compare to the headache-inducing nausea of raw manure typically spread on farm fields. Power produced by the biodigester is sold to Ontario's power generator and distributor, Hydro One for 20 cents per kilowatt hour, giving the farm earnings of $20,000 monthly.

Fat and oil drawn out of the sludge, mixed with manure, creates additional gas ending up as more energy. The Heinzles also placed solar panels on their five barns, an additional manoeuvre to send electricity to the power grid, from which they derive additional income selling that source of power for 70 cents/kWh, a return that varies of necessity by the season, where in the warm sunny months they can depend on a monthly return between $12,000 to $13,000, whereas in the cold months that is reduced to $1,200 to $1,500 monthly.

In addition, the biodigester generates heat from the two engines driving it, and that heat is used to heat the family home, to provide hot water, and to dry corn in the fall. The Heinzles save money on utility costs by producing their own power, and on fertilizers as well, since the biodigester produces digestate, converted from the raw manure, which spread on soil provides organic content and helps in retention of moisture. As well, his milking cows sleep on pasture mats; undigested fibres processed by the biodigester, as bedding.

The cost to the Heinzles to set up the biodigester and solar panels on the farm came to over $2-million as an investment in their enterprising power generation system. They have now recouped that investment thanks to revenues from electricity sales; the farm turns a profit through dairy products, small crops of soybeans, corn and wheat, as well as the generation of electricity. Rather than sending their harvested soy to a mill, the farm processes its own into soymeal pellets for cattle feed, extracting oil from the beans in the process, for use as tractor fuel.

Terryland Farms is the first in Ontario to launch this clean-technology concept. Manure produces methane, converting cow dung into biogas, but the process used by the farm reduces methane emissions, thus cutting one-third of farm-related greenhouse-gas emissions. And instead of sending waste to landfills, the farm uses it in its electricity generation. As the first Ontario farm set up to produce and sell electricity for a profit, it acts as a spur to other enterprising Ontario farmers to convert their disposable waste to energy as well.

Throughout eastern Ontario an estimated 15 additional farms are now in the process of beginning their own similar enterprises to convert biogas into electricity and providing it for the grid as an environmentally friendly saleable resource.


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Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Source of Hearing-Healing Solution

"Children identified with hearing loss at birth and fitted with technology in the first weeks of life blend in so well with everyone else that people don't realize there are so many deaf children."
"[Given appropriate hearing devices and auditory training during preschool years, even children born deaf] will have the ability to learn with their peers when they start school."
"Eighty-five percent of such children are successfully mainstreamed. Parents need to know that listening and spoken language is a possibility for their children."
"Deafness today is not what it was twenty years ago. Technology is so much better that virtually every child with hearing loss will be able to hear with the right devices -- hearing aids and cochlear implants."
Jane R. Madell, pediatric audiology pathologist, Beth Israel Medical Center/New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, director, Hearing and Learning Center and Cochlear Implant Center
childhood hearing loss
"Suddenly when I was playing soccer, I could hear what my teammates were saying. My mother practically cried when I heard a cricket chirping in the house."
"[My cochlear implant] really revolutionized my world  at age eleven when at New York University Medical Center she was fitted with the implant]."
Joanna Lippert, 33, social worker

"The earlier you get the implant, the more successful it is because the more auditory input the brain gets at an early age, the better the auditory skills you will develop."
Amy Pollick, 43, psychologist

"The ability now to put implants in babies is incredible."
"They grow up with sound; they grow up hearing everything. Sound is a gift -- laughter, voices, nature." 
Dr. Elizabeth Bonagura, obstetrician-gynecologist, surgeon

Drs. Pollick and Bonagura and Joanna Lippert speak with the authentic voice of authority. Not only professional authority, but the lived authority of people who as children grew up deaf or hearing-impaired. Theirs was the learning experience of hearing assists that enabled them to hear everything around them which in turn gave them the opportunity to speak normally. As another example, 27-year-old Jake Spinowitz, now a musician, benefited from the use of hearing aids until he reached 15, when he lost all residual hearing and the aids no longer worked.

"I began listening to music -- all kinds of music -- trying to make up for lost time", he explained, when at that juncture in his life he had a cochlear implant. "Sound makes the world a better place, so if you can have it, go for it", is a message he conveys to parents of children with profound hearing loss like his own. He played throughout high school and his college years in various bands, his implant enabling his passion for music. Now he is employed at YouTube.

Young father holding infant in hospital
Even newborns can be tested and treated
for hearing loss.  Healthy Hearing

The auditory system depends on hair cells to transmit sound to the auditory nerve where the brain processes sound. When the hair cells fail to function, a cochlear implant bypasses them, delivering sound directly to the auditory nerve. Even babies are eligible for implants, and according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders when children with profound hearing loss receive implants before they reach a year-and-a-half, they "develop language skills at a rate comparable to children with normal hearing".

Dr. Madell co-produced a documentary called "The Listening Project" whose purpose was a demonstration of the assistance available to hearing-impaired children with the use of modern hearing assists, augmented by auditory training. Social worker Amy Pollick's experience is a prime example of how an implant and training can transform a life. Her own two children have normal hearing, but her parents were deaf. They were determined their daughter would learn to speak.

To that end when she was six months old, her deaf parents equipped their tiny daughter with a hearing aid and with it came years of auditory therapy. Ms. Pollick obtained a cochlear implant when she was in graduate school researching primate vocalization, when her journey toward full hearing capacity was finally completed. The success story of these once-deaf children who became successful professionals in the field of science and the humanities should serve as a spur to parents whose children suffer from non-hearing disability.

Despite which, there is significant push-back from some deaf parents who reject hearing technology, insisting that children with profound hearing loss should preferentially be exposed to sign language, learning it as their primary mode of communication. Lacking the teaching stimulus of actually hearing how language is spoken, those children are unable to speak fluently as non-hearing-impaired children do. Leaving them at a decided disadvantage because their parents reject the thought that deafness is a condition calling out for a solution.

Pediatric audiologists administer hearing
tests designed specifically for children.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Gratuities Or Not?

"Overall, the current findings suggest that, if any restaurants are going to lead the movement away from tipping, it should be upscale restaurants and those restaurants should replace tipping, not with service charges, but with service-inclusive pricing."
"Indeed, the data suggest that only upscale restaurants can abandon tipping without suffering a reduction in overall customer satisfaction and only if they replace it with service-inclusive-pricing."
"These findings indicate that restaurants at all price tiers should expect the elimination of tipping to reduce online customer ratings. The only exception is expensive restaurants replacing tipping with service-inclusive-menu-pricing; in that case only can tipping be eliminated without reducing online customer ratings."
"Many restaurateurs hope to offset such costs [increase in minimum wages] by replacing tipping, which generates revenue management cannot legally access, with service charges or higher menu prices, which generate revenue management can control and distribute more equitably between front- and back-of-house employees."
"[Research] adds to a limited body of evidence that tipping increases overall customer satisfaction relative to that under alternative compensation/pricing systems -- especially when compared to service charge systems at less expensive establishments."
Hospitality research team, lead: Michael Lynn, Cornell University
waiter table
Tipping benefits customers, while its elimination can harm their sense of self esteem.

We like to feel good about ourselves, and being generous to others helps us feel we're doing the 'right thing', it would seem. And when you're taking a taxi, being served in a restaurant, or tipping a bell-hop for example, it seems the right thing to do in the knowledge that these are low-wage services leaving those being tipped dependent on the generosity of those whom they're serving to supplement their earnings. There is a standard for tipping in the West, and people generally adhere to it, viewing it as a small part of the generalized social contract.

A research paper published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management had those involved in this study convinced that tipping makes people feel they have done the right thing. And that to institute a no-tipping rule would have negative effects. If there is no method by which customers who have been well-served can indicate their appreciation beyond a simple 'thank you', by proffering a cash award to a server, the feeling would be that server would lack motivation to continue providing good service.

So the impulse to tip isn't entirely altruistic in nature, obviously. Customers become concerned that with no incentive to the server through a cash award to provide good service, the level of care in serving would deteriorate. The study authors carried out by researchers at Cornell University point to tipping as a form of "altruistic conspicuous consumption" whose result is that in having the tipper feel good is psychologically beneficial, leaving people with the impression they are generous to others less wealthy than themselves.

Their research also led them to the conclusion that customer satisfaction would be hugely reduced were tipping to be left out of the equation. Customers actually self-report on their eating-out experiences and are inclined to feel better served where tipping is customary, attested to by online ratings. Where restaurants have experimented with alternatives to tipping, the comments tend to be more critical in nature; something is missing, that feel-good attitude.

Implementing a no-tipping policy for a restaurant leads to a reduction in customer satisfaction, according to the research. Which concludes that should eating establishments want to entirely satisfy their clientele, allowing free and voluntary tipping is the key instead of building tips into the meal price or by addition to the bill. The issue is a live one at a time when minimum wages have escalated so that restaurant owners try to make up for added operating expense by absorbing tips into general revenue that otherwise are directed to wait staff.

Data used by the research team was provided by the website ReviewTrackers with about ten thousand ratings of 41 restaurants at all price levels in a two-year period. The ratings gathered there had been posted originally on websites more familiar to must users, such as Yelp, Google, Facebook, or TripAdviser. This, at a time when one in five restaurants had committed to no-tipping policies, and other restaurants are moving in the same direction.

Needless to say the issue of tipping is a cultural one. And not all cultures agree with tipping. In Japan, famously, it is considered insulting to tip anyone in the service industry. There is pride in providing outstanding service, and it is expected by society that service will be outstanding. To imply that someone in the service industry requires an impetus provided by an additional cash reward is not looked on kindly in that culture.

Businessman paying the check at restaurant

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Health Alert for Child Patients

"The way that it presents in children is with a pretty sudden weakness or paralysis of one or more of their limbs. So maybe an arm or maybe a leg or maybe an arm and a leg, and in this particular acute flaccid myelitis, it's usually on one side [that is affected]."
"Even with the spike of cases that we have at the moment, it's still an incredibly rare condition."
"When you think about how many kids will get a viral infection at this time of year, you're literally talking about huge numbers. So a tiny, tiny percentage seems to go on to get AFM [acute flaccid myelitis]."
"So there does seem like there's more to this than just the virus infection and there has to be some sort of genetic setup that makes these children vulnerable to that particular virus."
"We know from past experience that the prognosis and long-term effects of AFP [acute flaccid paralysis] can vary: Some patients recover fully and others experience a spectrum of long-term and even permanent effects."
"[The risk of a child developing the condition] is still incredibly low. But that said, because we are seeing quite a few more cases than we would normally see, we certainly want our colleagues … to be aware of what to look for."
"The message I would send out is there’s no cause for alarm." Dr. Jeremy Friedman, pediatrician-in-chief, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
Toronto Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. Doctors at the hospital are unsure what is causing a spike in polio-like paralysis targeting kids. (Doug Ives/Canadian Press)
"This year, more than half of all US states have had confirmed or possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis, the polio-like illness that can cause paralysis and mostly affects children, according to an exclusive CNN analysis."
"CNN reached out to health departments in every state; 48 states responded, plus the District of Columbia. Of those, 30 states said they had cases that were confirmed, suspected or being investigated -- including 15 states that said they had confirmed cases in 2018."
"In total, CNN found 47 confirmed cases and 49 more that were suspected or being investigated, for a total of 96."
"The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which releases only confirmed numbers, says 16 states had 38 cases as of September 30. It does not identify the states."
CNN, October 18, 2018

Screen Shot 2018 10 08 at 11.48.10 AM
Four-year-old Orville Young, right, is is believed to be one of the first patients in the Minnesota cluster of acute flaccid myelitis patients.  Business Insider

An alarm has been raised by Dr. Friedman of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children of unusual instances in an admittedly rare, but dangerous polio-like condition affecting the health of some Canadian children. A condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) which causes muscle weakness and which typically manifests after a viral infection has doctors concerned and vigilant, even though it is rarely seen to affect children, and its onset mechanism is not quite understood, though it is thought that those affected have a genetic predisposition.

According to Dr. Friedman, staff physicians at Sick Kids have diagnosed fewer than twenty cases of limb-based paralysis since September, and of that number a dozen have been confirmed as acute flaccid myelitis. Canada is certainly not alone in discovering that this rare condition has suddenly begun to crop up in greater numbers than what is considered normal. Dozens of reports have been surfacing out of the United States within that same time period; early September to the present.

Although the condition is still considered rare, a vanishingly minuscule number of children being affected, even with this perceived 'outbreak' -- to place the matter in perspective -- Sick Kids sees a mere two cases of AFM annually, accounting for an annual incidence risk of about one case per million children, for the condition. What it is that triggers the onset of AFM remains unknown, however, other than that it follows a viral infection.

MRI imagining does disclose that children with AFM have an inflammatory abnormality in an area of the spinal cord called the anterior horn cell. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control last week reported over 60 confirmed cases in 22 U.S. states in the last several weeks. In total, since the beginning of 2018, 127 cases of AFM have been reported in the United States, with one death occurring related to the condition.

acute flaccid myelitis

Those seen with AFM at Sick Kids are all children under 14; though the average age of affected children is four, most onsets tend to appear with children of pre-school age. Some of the affected children at Sick Kids were treated in the ICU (intensive care unit) but fortunately, no deaths have resulted from the outbreak. According to a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, current surveillance data have not detected any surge in such cases recently.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Fitness Instructors Should Stick to Their Field of Expertise

"Given that our results demonstrate limited nutrition knowledge among exercise professionals, the accuracy and effectiveness of the nutrition advice provided must be questioned, particularly with regards to specific medical nutrition advice."
Australian research, University of Sydney

"Gym members like the idea of one-stop shopping. But I don't advise people on how to squat, and trainers shouldn't give advice on how to eat."
"A lot of damage can be done when it comes to offering advice about food. People start to believe that if they follow a particular diet, they will be strong, healthy, thin and accepted. Yet no studies have shown that diets are successful in the long run."
"Of course clients are going to want to talk about food, but that doesn't mean trainers need to have all the answers. Instead, they should let their clients know that their role is to help them get fit and strong."
"Fitness trainers should be a source of body positivity. They should stay away from diet talk and teach people how to move through life with strength and in good health."
Lisa Rutledge, dietitian, McGill University Comprehensive Health Improvement Program

Discussion: The primary finding of this investigation is that the majority of REPs [registered exercise professionals] who completed the questionnaire provide individual dietary advice to their clients, including advice relating to underlying medical conditions (i.e. medical nutrition therapy), suggesting this is common practice within the industry. This clearly breaches REPs scope of professional practice, which limits advice to the provision of general non-medical nutrition information in accordance with nationally endorsed evidence-based guidelines that is not individually tailored. This is concerning given exercise professionals training curriculum has limited nutrition education and the majority undertake no (40 per cent) or limited (25 per cent) post-fitness course nutrition-specific professional development opportunities. This reinforces a need for the industry to enforce clearly defined professional boundaries and facilitate a collaborative multi-discipline approach to client servicing in order to deliver a holistic approach to lifestyle modification and favourable fitness and health outcomes.
Research paper: Do the nutrition qualifications and professional practices of Registered Exercise Professionals align?
Research team: Mark R McKean, Gary Slater, Florin Oprescu, Brendan J Burkett
Published: International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
According to dietitian/nutritionist Lisa Rutledge a diet culture exemplifies the culture of the gym which fits right in with what most people readily relate to, equating exercise with weight loss. The diets that promise larger muscles and improved athletic performance seem a natural fit to those who subscribe to exercise+diet. Which, in turn, leads trainers to believe they are competent to provide diet advice, while dispensing exercise best practices at the same time. This, despite a lack of training and knowledge in counseling clients on accurate dietary goals.

Australian researchers out of University of Sydney set out to recruit 161 fitness trainers, 36 dietitians and 357 people representing the general community of those devoted to enhancing their health by exercise and diet. A questionnaire was designed to evaluate nutritional expertise which was divided in four sections comprised of dietary guidelines, food content of nutrients, healthy food choices and awareness of diet/disease relationships, with a goal to determine where trainers ranked compared to dietitians and the general public.
Australian Fitness Academy

The trainers scored significantly lower than dietitians in three of four sections; the sole area in which trainers and dietitians both registered like numbers of correct answers was healthy food choices. The standout area where trainers' awareness was higher compared to community respondents was their understanding of nutrient content. Having an undergraduate degree in exercise science failed to aid trainers score higher on the questionnaire than peers lacking a related degree.

The same research group in Australia concluded that 51 percent of 286 fitness professionals polled in an earlier study stated they provided nutritional advice with respect to heart disease; 48 percent counseled about nutrition, diabetes and blood sugar; 44 percent discussed supplements; 39 percent talked with clients about nutrition deficiencies; and 35 percent gave advice relating to food allergies and food intolerance. Leading dietitian Rutledge to point out that such guidance has the potential to guide individuals toward disordered eating.

The Australian researchers came to the conclusion that a recommendation that fitness professionals remain wedded to their scope of expertise and not reach out into a related, but entirely inappropriate inclusion of another type of expertise they are clearly not equipped to handle must be urgently recommended. Should gyms wish to continue add-on benefits of informing clients on nutrition, the best possible way is to refer clients to professional nutritionists, or to commit to having a dietitian on staff for consultations.

Nutrition Support | Body Composition

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Great Dismal Swamp : A Desolate Place for a Defiant People

The Slave in the Dismal Swamp
In dark fens of the Dismal Swamp
  The hunted Negro lay;
He saw the fire of the midnight camp,
And heard at times a horse's tramp
  And a bloodhound's distant bay.

Henry Wadsworth LongfellowImage result for the great dismal swamp, tennyson
 "Dar is families growed up in dat dar Dismal Swamp dat never seed a white man, and would be skeered most to def to see one. Some runaways went dere wid dar wives, an' dar childres are raised dar."
"Dar are haps ob folks in dar to work. Most of 'em are fugitives, or else hirin' dar time. There is reefs ob land folks call de high lands. In dem ar canbrakes de ground is kivered wit leaves, kinder makin' a nat'ral bed."
"Dar be whar de wild hogs, cows, wolves and bars be found."
Charlie, runaway slave, 1859

"No one's saying nobody ever ran in there, but there's a difference between a slave running into the Dismal and slaves sustaining communities through generations. If you don't bring in archaeology, all you have is the documents and, if you're lucky, some oral histories. You're talking about a 2,000-square-mile swamp."
"They're not out there writing memos and sending them back to the local courthouse."
"Wait a minute, this is dry ground [2004 exploration]. Suddenly the ground is rising. The trees are 15 feet apart. It feels like a park. You could feel people here, almost."
"Anywhere I put my shovel, I was finding cultural features.  [Including the outlines of numerous cabins, where posts had rotted away but left circular stains where once they had been pushed into the ground]."
"There's so much focus on these benevolent, white, bearded guys [19th century Quakers]. Somewhere along the way, this radical black history got co-opted."
"We can talk good words about Quakers and abolitionists. But when they become the only point of conversation, we need to rectify this. The main agents were these maroons who took their lives into their own hands. They said, 'I'm getting the hell out of here'."
Dan Sayers, Chair of anthropology, American University, Washington, D.C.

"There's a lot that's unknowable, but I think we've finally been able to flush out the story. There are less than ten firsthand accounts of what life was like in the swamp, none of them exhaustive. We have to rely on conjecture a lot more."
"It was a peat swamp, which means it's highly acidic. Anything organic would not survive. They recycled these things down to disappearance. You had gun flints used down to the last possible spark."
J.Brent Morris, historian, University of South Carolina Beaufort
Sayers emerges from the Great Dismal Swamp near one of his research sites. (Allison Shelley)

A vast tract of marshy, peatland called the Great Dismal Swamp that existed on the border between North Carolina and Virginia was a mysterious place, a place where people hesitated to venture within, yet it captured the imagination. In 1859 reformer James Redpath published a book, Talks with Slaves in the Southern States, focusing on fugitive slaves helping other slaves to escape and find haven in Canada. His book described the swamp area as a "paradise of serpents and poisonous vegetation" but yet a place of haven for runaways. 

It is a place with a history of its own, most often described in hushed, fear-laden tones. But the swamp was not entirely unknown to some, as for example as a place where Native Americans were known to hunt since pre-historical times, where marginalized whites and European criminals found refuge from the 1600s forward. Where Africans who were forcibly enslaved joined maroons who had earlier settled deep in the bog unlike other inhabitants who lived and worked around the edges of the swamp.

It was characterized as a "vast body of mire and nastiness" in 1732 by William Byrd II, a planter, frustrated along with other colonials of the time that slaves were hiding themselves within its interior. George Washington was known to have extracted lumber from the swamp around 1760, planning to drain it for farming, without succeeding. In Dred by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a Dismal maroon was the main character. Poets of the day, like Longfellow and Wadsworth immortalized the swamp in dismal verse.

Finally, 1805 saw the Dismal Swamp Canal built, 35-kilometres linked to other waterways and ultimately altering the environment leaving the swamp with 305 of its original 2,000 metres still unapproachably intact, though during the time of the Civil War it was ten times that size. Anthropologist Dan Sayers was certain examining areas of the Swamp would reveal more of its history, as a significant part of the heritage of Black Americans; verifying that many were determined to take the trajectory of their lives into their own hands, escaping slavery.
Dan Sayers
During more than ten years of field excavations, archaeologist Dan Sayers has recovered 3,604 artifacts at an island located deep inside the swamp. (Allison Shelley)

In 2003 he ventured three kilometres into the swamp discovering a part of the refuge's raised islands, particularly a 20-acre elevated area located deep in the swamp interior where he was certain whole communities had once lived. With students from American University his project grew to become the Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study, between 2010 and 2014, receiving a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. They ran into black bears and canebrake rattlesnakes and swarms of mosquitoes drove them beyond frustration.

But they discovered the kind of fragments they were in search of; tobacco pipe pieces, fire pits, stone tools, and bits of ceramic. The sand on which cabins were sited was gauged and dated between the 1600s and 1700s. And while Dr. Sayers and his students worked on location, Dr. Morris of the University of South Carolina undertook the documentation aspect of the project. Out of their work came an exhibit on the Great Dismal Swamp installed at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in the Slavery and Freedom gallery.

And Dr. Sayers produced a publication detailing the history of the place and his findings which he titled A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaved Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp.

Great Dismal Swamp
Once 2,000 square miles in Virginia and North Carolina, the swamp today is perhaps one-tenth that size. (Allison Shelley)

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Lyme Disease in Canada Hosted by White-Tailed Deer

"So it's a multi-pronged approach to recruit patients across Canada to increase our knowledge of the natural progression of this disease and how it's resolved, as well as improved diagnostics."
"We want to follow patients who get Lyme disease, from their initial diagnosis all the way through for the first two years after their diagnosis and treatment. We want to look for any complications or failure in the treatment."
"By doing that, we're going to be able to detect, for the first time in Canada, what are the circulating strains of Lyme disease in humans and is there a change in the severity of the strains between what's in the United States and Canada?"
"It's a benefit to the patient [who agrees to help in the research] because we'll follow them closely to make sure their symptoms are resolved and the patient will be helping the community to understand this disease."
"Are there methods that we can create in our environment that we can reduce the presence of ticks?"
Dr. Kieran Moore, professor of emergency and family medicine, regional medical officer of health, Queen's University
Blacklegged or deer ticks, which can carry Lyme disease, are increasingly surviving Canada's warming winters. (CDC/Associated Press)

A team of researchers led by Dr. Moore and including Dr. Richard Resnick, dean of health sciences at Queen's University who had previously established a multidisciplinary team to investigate the disease now so prevalent (as an adjunct fallout linked to the phenomenon of Climate Change) throughout Canada has received a $4-million grant through the Pan-Canadian Research Network on Lyme disease, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the federal government.

Included in the network to focus on gaps in the protocol currently used in prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease will be scientists, clinicians and patients. Blacklegged ticks, carried by deer, transmit the infectious disease to people when a tick in its immature nymph stage bites. Most people are left with an expanding red rash at the tick-bite site accompanied by fever, chills and symptoms similar to those of the flu.

Other people, however may experience far more serious symptoms affecting heart, joint and resulting neurological disorders. If a diagnosis is not made correctly identifying the infection and remedial action taken, lifelong effects can haunt and diminish people's health. The intention of the team is to collect data from patients where tick bites and Lyme disease are rife. Southeastern Ontario, the south shore of Nova Scotia and the St.Lawrence River close by Sherbrooke, Quebec, and Manitoba have been identified as prime Lyme disease sites.
Relative sizes of several ticks at different life stages. In general, adult ticks are approximately the size of a sesame seed and nymphal ticks are approximately the size of a poppy seed.
In general, adult ticks are approximately the size of a sesame seed and nymphal ticks are approximately the size of a poppy seed. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Canada has seen previous efforts on an ongoing basis through surveillance, research, best-practise sharing, laboratory diagnostics and testing, along with prevention education and public awareness through education, but this latest concerted effort is meant to tie everything together with an enhanced focus on better understanding the transmission of the infection and how best to both avoid and treat the infection, alerting the general public in the process,

The first step in launching the research study is to convince patients with Lyme disease that it is in their best interests and that of the public at large to agree to allowing researchers to extract biological samples: blood, urine and skin scrapes surrounding the rash that appears after a tick bite. Dr. Moore anticipates that the tests that will ensue will turn out to be sufficiently sensitive to isolate strains of the infection seen to be particular to Canada.

He foresees the potential of between 500 to a thousand people who have been tick-bitten will agree to become involved in the research over the following four years, after its April 2019 initiation (the bites occur in spring primarily, followed closely by infection symptoms). The  ultimate goal is to succeed in improving diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease, and at the same time increase the efficacy of public education as well as alerting health-care providers.

Reducing the risk of Lyme disease transmission by somehow altering the environment that nurtures it is yet another hoped-for result.

Ticks live in some of our favourite outdoor places; like grassy fields, the woods, gardens, beaches and nature parks. Ticks need blood to survive, so they choose to live in habitats frequented by potential mammal hosts. Areas with dense deer populations are often Lyme disease hotspots.
Lyme-carrying ticks can be found across the country, yet eastern Canada consistently reports the highest rate of infection. There are several contributing factors, but a major one is eastern Canada’s large population of White-Tailed Deer – the deer tick’s preferred host.Eastern and central Canadian provinces also share borders with Lyme “hotspots’ in the United States and are within flight distance for ticks catching rides on migratory birds.
Despite the frequency of infection, Lyme disease awareness is still relatively low in the east.
CanLyme – Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation - Lyme education & research fundraising in Canada

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