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A patient is in isolation at a St. Catharines hospital after arriving from the Ebola hot zone of West Africa with “flu-like symptoms.”

The patient is in stable condition and is considered “low risk,” said Niagara Health System (NHS) spokesperson Brady Wood, adding that test results confirming whether the patient has Ebola, a deadly virus, are expected by Thursday.

“Our analysis indicates this situation is very low-risk,” said Dr. Tom Stewart, chief of staff and executive vice-president medical at the NHS.

“We are taking every precaution and isolating the patient per the best practice protocols, with advice from infectious disease experts and public health.”

The NHS won’t confirm where the patient is from or disclose the West African country where the person was travelling.

More on thestar.com

The region is beset by the largest-ever Ebola outbreak, with reported cases in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal and Nigeria. A second outbreak of the disease has occurred further south in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

More than 1,500 people have died, while more than 3,000 have contracted the disease during this year’s epidemic, according to the World Health Organization.

Though no cases of Ebola have been reported in Canada, people in Brampton andMontreal have been quarantined as a precaution after returning from Africa with symptoms of the flu. Both patients were ultimately shown not to have the disease.

This latest isolation case in St. Catharines is part of a “heightened vigilance” to prevent to the spread of the disease.

Stewart said Ontario hospitals have been prepping in recent weeks to handle any cases of Ebola. He added that the St. Catharines hospital has new negative pressure rooms and isolation capabilities.

“Our goal in this case is to ensure this individual receives great care while protecting our staff and the public,” he said.

“We will keep the public updated in an orderly fashion, and in the meantime we are asking staff and the public to remain calm and to be extremely vigilant in terms of hand hygiene at our sites.”

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluid. It has a 90-per-cent fatality rate, making it one of the world’s most virulent diseases, according to the World Health Organization.

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) may be the best way to know whether a woman is at risk of developing cervical cancer in the near future, according to a new study.

Negative HPV tests provided women with more reliable assurance that they wouldn’t develop cancer or other abnormal cervical changes in the next three years, compared to traditional Pap tests, researchers report.

“Primary HPV screening might be a viable alternative to Pap screening alone,” said Julia Gage, the study’s lead author from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

About 12,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010 and about 4,000 died from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 91 percent of cervical cancers are thought to be caused by HPV.

Pap smears, which require doctors to collect cells from the cervix to look for abnormalities, have traditionally been used to determine whether a woman is at risk of developing cancer in the near future.

In 2012, the government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended women between ages 21 and 65 years be screened using a Pap test every three years and said those ages 30 to 65 years could instead opt for cotesting, which is a Pap test in combination with a HPV test, every five years.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and affects both men and women. About 79 million people have the infection but most people don’t know they’re infected because symptoms are uncommon.

HPV testing also requires doctors to collect cells like they would during a Pap test but the end result is whether the woman has the virus – not abnormal cells.

“What we wanted to see is whether primary HPV screening could be a good alternative to Pap and compare it to cotesting,” Gage said.

For the new study, the researchers used data from over one million women who were between ages 30 and 64 years and screened for cervical cancer at Kaiser Permanente Northern California since 2003.

The researchers followed women who had a negative Pap or HPV test to see whether they developed cervical cancer during the next three years. They also looked at how many women developed cervical cancer in the five years following cotesting.

Overall, about 20 women out of 100,000 developed cervical cancer in the three years following a negative Pap test. That compared to 11 women out of 100,000 who developed the cancer during the three years after receiving a negative HPV test.

About 14 women out of 100,000 developed cervical cancer in the five years following negative cotests, according to results published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Gage said the findings were not surprising, since HPV is the cause of most cervical cancers.

She cautioned that the results do not foreshadow the death of Pap smears. The tests may still have a role in monitoring whether women with HPV, who are at an increased risk of cancer, go on to develop abnormal cervical cells.

“We always have to reconsider how we’re screening patients and focus on the best way to screen for certain cancer,” said Dr. Mario Leitao Jr., a gynecological surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

“I think this is very interesting because instead of doing (Pap tests) every three years you could do HPV (tests) every three years,” said Leitao, who was not involved with the new study.

He said there will be a lot of variables in deciding which test is best for women.

“The best way to do it is still to be determined but it’s important they have some form of cervical cancer screening at least every three years,” Leitao said.

He added that women also have to be their own advocates and tell their doctors that they don’t need Pap tests every year.

“It shouldn’t be done more frequently than every three years,” he said.

 SOURCE: http://bit.ly/UckC33 Journal of the National Cancer Institute, online July 18, 2014.

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DENVER (Reuters) – Three more people in Colorado have been diagnosed with the plague after coming in contact with an infected dog whose owner contracted a life-threatening form of the disease, state health officials said on Friday.

In all, four people were infected with the disease from the same source, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement.

Last week the department said a man in an eastern Colorado county whose dog died of the plague had been diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a rare and serious form of the disease.

The man remains hospitalized, but authorities have not released his condition.

The three people in the latest reported cases had “mild symptoms” and have fully recovered after being treated with antibiotics, the department said, adding that they are no longer contagious.

Two of the patients in the new cases contracted pneumonic plague, the department said.

Pneumonic plague is the only form of the disease that can be transmitted person-to-person, usually through infectious droplets from coughing.

The bacteria that causes plague occurs naturally in the western United States, primarily in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The infected canine in Colorado likely contracted the disease from prairie dogs or rabbits, which are the primary hosts for fleas that carry the bacteria.

When an infected animal dies, the fleas spread the disease when they find another host.

Colorado has seen a total of 12 cases of humans infected with the plague over the last decade, said Jennifer House, the department’s public health veterinarian.

“We usually don’t see an outbreak like this related to the same source,” House said.

Colorado had not had a confirmed human case of pneumonic plague since 2004, she said.

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