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Monday, February 1, 2016

Zika virus travel warning for Canadians



   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 31/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians seeking a break from a cold winter are being advised by health authorities to “consider” postponing travel to hot climates where the mosquito-borne Zika virus is circulating.
   As well, the agency responsible for most of Canada’s blood supply will turn away donors who have traveled to countries where Zika is rampant.
   That now takes in more than 20 countries in South and Central America, the Caribbean and parts of Mexico.
   Most people infected with the virus experience no symptoms, or at the most short-lived fever, malaise, skin rash, joint pain and red eyes.
   The big worry is for pregnant women and those who plan to become pregnant as it can cause children to be born with microcephaly, a condition that causes small heads and underdeveloped brains.
   “It is recommended that pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant discuss their travel plans with their health-care provider to assess their risk,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said.
   While the chance of Zika virus getting into the blood supply is remote, it is spreading in areas where Canadians are potentially going to be traveling, said Dr. Dana Devine of Canadian Blood Services.
   Most Canadian airlines are allowing passengers to change or cancel bookings to affected destinations.

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   Financial help could be on the way from the new Liberal government to oil-rich Alberta that’s been battered by low commodity prices.
   With the province experiencing a big drop in revenues and tens of thousands of job losses in the oil industry, it could qualify for $250 million under the fiscal stabilization program.
   A federal government source said departments have been asked to come up with “innovative ideas” to help Alberta’s economy.
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit Alberta on Wednesday to discuss possible initiatives including infrastructure spending to create jobs and boosting payments through the employment insurance program.

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   News in brief:
   - Prime Minister Trudeau visited the northern Saskatchewan native community of La Loche on Friday to express “the country’s shock and sadness” over a shooting rampage. A 17-year-old boy whom friends say was bullied and an outcast was arrested for murder. Two teenaged brothers were killed at home before a teacher and an aide were shot and killed and seven others wounded at the local high school.
   - A Toronto jury found Police Constable James Forcillo not guilty of murder in the death of Sammy Yatim, 18, who threatened him with a knife on an empty streetcar in 2013. Forcillo was, however, found guilty of attempted murder for additional shots he fired at Yatim after he was down and will be sentenced in May. Also in Toronto, four police officers were arrested for obstruction of justice and perjury for allegedly “planting evidence” and giving false testimony in a drug dealer’s case.

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   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is higher at 71.26 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.403 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
   Markets are higher, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 12,716 points and the TSX Venture index 496 points.
   The average price of gas has dropped to 87.47 cents a liter nationally or $3.32 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (Jan. 27) 4, 13, 24, 36, 39 and 41; bonus 47. (Jan. 23) 21, 31, 34, 37, 38 and 44; bonus 9. Lotto Max: (Jan. 22) 20, 21, 22, 34, 42, 43 and 45; bonus 1.

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   Regional briefs:
   - Rogers Media is cutting its workforce by 200 jobs in television, radio, publishing and administration across Canada as part of “efficiency efforts.” The cuts will begin next month at its 24 TV stations, 52 radio stations, 57 publications and 93 websites.
   - The Guelph Mercury published its last edition on Friday, with the loss of 26 jobs. The newspaper, owned by Metroland Media Group (publisher of the Toronto Star) had been in business since 1867. Metroland also publishes the twice-weekly Guelph Tribune.
   - Nova Scotia will raise its minimum wage by 10 cents to $10.70 an hour on April 1. The increase is to reflect a rise in the cost of living.

   -30-

   Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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