Friday, October 30, 2009

more about the H1N1

I'll state a few things up front:
1- I'm not a doctor. Not even a little bit. I have a degree in Psychology that is research-based. But I have worked for a health research agency for about 4 years and I'm pretty darn familiar with the world of health research, and evidence-based medicine.
2- I believe in vaccination, however I didn't start getting the flu shot until three years ago.
3- I've never had and adverse reaction to a vaccination, nor have I had anyone close to me experience one (that I know of).
4- I can't remember the last time I got the flu, but Jordan seems to get it every year.

Ok, so now that my potential biases are out of the way, I've already posted once about the pandemic paranoia already and I've had several people ask me about the H1N1 flu vaccine. Since I do love me some research...here are some things I think might be of interest to those of you who are trying to make a decision.

First off, the vaccine is called Arepanrix, it is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKlein, and it is Health Canada approved "based on limited testing." Health Canada has decided that the risks of an H1N1 pandemic outweigh the risks associated with the vaccine and will be monitoring the effects of the vaccine pretty closely.

It is an adjuvanted vaccine, which means that in addition to the inactivated virus matter that helps you build immunity to the flu, it also contains a substance that helps "jump start" your body's immune response. The adjuvant in this particular vaccine is made up of Vitamin E (DL-α-tocopherol), Squalene (an organic compound that is usually derived from sharks), and Polysorbate 80 (an emulsifier that is also used in foods). This is the first time (I think) that an adjuvant has been used in a flu vaccine, but it it is used in other vaccines.

The vaccine also contains the mercury-based preservative Thimerosal. Yup, mercury is poisonous and if you inhale a big old vial of Thimerosal, you'll probably die. But, the amount of mercury in your dose of the H1N1 vaccine is less that the amount of mercury in a tuna sandwich.

In general, you have a 1-2 chance in 1 000 000 of having a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine.


The "virus bits" that are in the vaccine were grown in eggs. So if you are allergic to eggs, you can't get the vaccine.  Although there is not a huge amount of data about the vaccine, it seems like it "gives you immunity" about 10 days after you get the injection. If you would like to read the product information leaflet put out by Health Canada, you can read it here: link

So now that you know a little more about the vaccine, is it worth getting it?
During normal flu season, you have about a 9-12% chance of getting the flu, although this can get up to 42% if you have young children. So far (and it is very early in the season), the "attack rate" of H1N1 is higher than the "normal" flu.

With regard to how sick you get, pretty much everyone who gets H1N1 comes down with a fever and a cough and more than half have shortness of breath. Chills, muscle soreness, runny nose, sore throat, and headache are also common. Sounds like a good time!


About 11 in 1000 cases in the US (this is the spring cases I think) were hospitalized and about 70% of people hospitalized have had pre-existing risk factors such as diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy, asthma, and kidney disease. The vast majority of people who have been determined as "confirmed or probable" cases of H1N1 are under the age of 24 (with the next highest group being from 25-49).


As of October 29th, 95 Canadians have died from H1N1 (surveillance data found here). According to a doctor of Community and Family Medicine at the University of Toronto, your chance of getting H1N1 and getting quite sick is 25% (higher if you have small children), which at first I kind of thought "well that's not too bad" but then when I converted that to 1 in 4 and pictured myself standing around with three people at work, it seemed a little worse.

So, there is pretty much a 1 in a million chance that I will have an adverse reaction to the vaccine and about a 1 in 4 chance that I'll get the H1N1 flu and will get pretty sick. I know statistics can be deceptive, but when I see those numbers and add in the fact that I have asthma...I wonder if there is really a question. On the other hand, waiting in line for 4 or 5 hours for a vaccine that may not actually protect me against H1N1 doesn't sound all that appealing.

Will I get it? I really hope so! I hope to get it next week when they've ironed some of the kinks out of the system.

Hopefully this information was helpful in at least making you feel like you might be able to make a more educated decision about whether you will or will not get the flu shot. Feel free to ask questions. I'll try my best to find the answers for you.

So- what will it be? Vaccinate or no? Or are you just not concerned?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

something that is green

Two exciting things in green arrived today.

The first was my green bin. I had heard people talking about them, I knew they were being delivered soon, but for whatever reason, it didn't really click that I too would be getting one of these fabled green bins. I'll have to read up on it and figure out what I put in it and when pick-up starts.

The second green delivery was my new cook book: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I'd try to be all suspenseful and make you try to guess if I was going veg and then do some sort of big reveal, but I have a documented history of bacon love, so we know that's not going to happen. That being said, I'm not a big fan of the touching and preparation of meat and I don't choose to do it all that often. Since I am alone during most of the week, most of my dinners end up being fairly meatless...so I thought I'd get the book to get some more ideas.

The best part about ordering the book online (besides the 34% off) is that we ordered it at the same time as The River Cottage Meat Book- a book all about meat.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

i do love bullet points

I've been neglectful- I know, and you know that neglectful blogging always leads to what? Bullet points! Yaaaaay!
  • I'm currently listening to the crazy raccoon-feeding neighbour talking to cats outside my window. I bet he's feeding the random neighbourhood cats that aren't his own. He feeds his own cats too, but considering we've nicknamed one of his cats "Fat Cat", his do just fine. As do the neighbourhood cats since he seems to feed them all. Because of that, they seem to think I'll feed them too. In fact, "Loud Cat" (not his cat) got all, well, loud at me yesterday when I was doing laundry. I responded with "I'm not the one that feeds you." On my next trip to the laundry room, there was Loud Cat eating a bowl of food. I guess the neighbour heard me. (or Loud Cat I guess...she is pretty loud)
  • I know I've been here 4 years now, but there are still some "Ontario terms" that surprise me every so often. Maybe it is an Ottawa thing, but I've heard Mac's stores referred to as "Mac's Milk" several times in the last year...by several different people of at least two different generations. The first time, I was told to meet my bus strike carpool ride at the "Mac's Milk", then most recently, we were getting directions over the weekend and were told to turn left at the "Mac's Milk". I don't think I ever heard it called that out west...but maybe I was just hanging with the wrong crowd.
  • Paul Haggis has quit Scientology. Now, I had no idea he was a scientologist...but apparently his disgust with the "religion" is two-fold. One, they wanted his wife to cut off contact with her parents. Two, "the Church" promised to denounce one of its branches that spoke out in support of Proposition 8 in California...and then never did. In his letter, he apparently wrote "The church's refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly. I can think of no other word. Silence is consent, Tommy [Davis, head of the Church of Scientology]. I refuse to consent ... I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology." And so he quit. Well done Paul. I do love a feisty Canadian. I also wonder if the other scientologists will now refuse to work on his movies.
  • And speaking of feisty Canadians, apparently Stephen Harper is now one of them. We're no longer welcome in Libya after Harper condemned Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for giving a "hero's welcome" to a convicted bomber.  You may be the dorky kid on the block, but way to take a stand. (yes, that's right, I just said something nice about Stephen Harper...enjoy it while you can Randy, it probably won't happen again :)
  • Apparently Iceland will no longer have any McDonald's restaurants as of next week. I have to be honest- I don't think Iceland will be any worse off for it. I wonder if they would have been able to stay open if they were able to use local products...I'm guessing yes.
  • Speaking of local products, I've been researching the availability of community supported agriculture  (or "a CSA box") here in Ottawa. I have to do some more digging- but does anyone out there have experience with this? Do you get local produce delivered or pick it up at an arranged drop off spot? If so, do you like it? If not- would you ever consider it? What do you think your highest "price point" for this would be? I think it is a very interesting concept and I like the idea of buying local, but I would like to hear about it from people who have actually used a service.
And that's my bullet point update.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the H1N1 pandemic paranoia

I work in health research, so of course the media spectacle of H1N1 has caught my eye. Just today, here are some of my favourite stories:


Firstly, the head of medicine my alma matter (no, I did not go to the medical portion of the school) wants you to "fist bump" in order to prevent the flu. Yes, that's right, he wants to replace the handshake with the fist bump. Some pros that I see are that you won't be judged by the firmness of your handshake, you don't have to worry about sweaty palms, and of course, you won't have to worry about where that hand has been. Sure, it might look ridiculous at first, but it might just revolutionize the greeting!

Secondly, I would now like to call it the turkey flu instead of the swine flu with the news that a heard of turkeys (yes, I'm sure it isn't called that but I just don't care) has been infected with H1N1. Don't worry, these Ontario turkeys pose minimal risk, but I would have loved to see the pandemonium if this had happened before Thanksgiving!


Thirdly, Health Canada has now approved the H1N1/swine flu/turkey flu vaccine for use here. The trials of the vaccine just started this week, the results won't be available until next year, but don't you worry, the vaccine is available! (yes it is likely safe, but what we don't know is whether or not it is really effective)

Am I afraid of the dreaded swine flu? Not really. It is the flu. I will not lose sleep over a virus (well, unless it is ebola of course). If I get it, well, that really sucks. No one wants the flu and I hate getting sick. But I will NOT get all paranoid over this flu or any other flu. I think the paranoia might be classified as a pandemic rather than the actual disease...

That being said, will I get the vaccination? Probably. So far, most of the people who have had serious issues with this flu in Canada are young, female, otherwise healthy, and aboriginal. The only one of those things I'm not is aboriginal. Plus, I have asthma and apparently this particular flu is pretty hard on your respiratory system (as are most flus, but this one is especially bad).

What else will I be doing? Well, I'll be paying more attention to hand washing and hand sanitizing. Also, I'll be more careful about touching my face when I've been in public places.

How do you all feel about the H1N1 media storm? Are you afraid of the flu? Do you plan on getting vaccinated?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

almost as east as it gets...

...in Canada anyway.

We were in Halifax over the weekend. Jordan had a conference to go to, so I decided to tag along (since there was a seat sale and since he was able to get his trip paid for). We have friends there who used to live in Ottawa and who have bugging us to come for a visit ever since they had to move away. It was really great to see them and to be able to spend some time away.

I had been to Halifax once before- back when I was in the Stampede Showband (oh yes, for those of you who don't know me very well, I was indeed in a marching band) but that trip involved mostly rehearsing and performing, so I mostly saw the field at St Mary's University and the little bit of space around our performance venue. Man that was a long time ago...

Anyway, lobster was eaten, beer and wine was consumed, a delicious meal was had at Jane's on the common, and a good time was had by all.
Here are a few more pictures:

"Teddy" the tugboat

The lighthouse at Peggy's Cove. There were a LOT of people there, so I managed to crouch down and take this without getting anyone else in it.

More Peggy's cove-'tis quite scenic

lookin' east


I really wanted to climb up there and add an extra "b" for the Lobbsters


It only rained Friday afternoon and evening, but it was cloudy pretty much the rest of the time. The sun peeked out a bit on Saturday afternoon, but all in all, a cloudy trip. Hopefully we can go back sometime in the "sunny season" (if one exists).

*oh, and how did i NOT know that there was a new version of the post editor???? it is WAY more user friendly. if you haven't switched over, go to your dashboard, then to settings, then to basic...scroll down and when you hit the "gobal settings" section, choose the updated editor. seriously...why did i not know about this...posting pictures is WAY easier...they actually go in where your cursor is instead of having to move them. how long have i been needlessly suffering?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

headin' east

Headed for a long weekend to the east. I have no idea if I'll be blogging or not, but I'll be back with pictures and stories to tell :)

Until then, enjoy your October weekend. I hope it is warmer where you are than it is where I am.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

stop fat talk

This goes out to all you ladies (and gentlemen as well) who put yourself down. I do it, you do it and it is terrible. So, lets stop it. Just stop. Next week is "stop fat talk" week across the states. Why not bring it to Canada as well. So tell your sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and friends: stop!


Instead, be nice to yourself. Find something that you love about yourself and celebrate it. And hey- your imperfections are what make you beautiful!

Monday, October 12, 2009

things i am thankful for

Being able to run in places like this:



We went for a run in Gatineau Park on Saturday and despite the cold and my runny nose, it really was a great run. As much as I hate the hills as I run up and down them, I know it makes me stronger and I know that if I want to conquer the hills of Vermont in 8 months, I need to get in as many miles going up hills as I can.

Despite not being with family for thanksgiving for the first time in a few years, I am trying to reflect on things I am thankful for- and I definitely have a lot for which to be thankful.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

chickens in sweaters

I know I hate birds, I eat meat, and I eat eggs, there's something about this that both breaks my heart and warms my heart. Plus, there are chickens...in SWEATERS! And I actually know two people that made some of those sweaters (the pink ones)

That "rehabilitated" chicken really did look so much better and seeing those poor chickens makes me feel pretty guilty...
For more information on the chicken rescue program check out the Cobble Hills Farm Sanctuary website.

I think is a pretty cool concept to have a children's program AND a farm rescue program rolled into one. As much as I hate birds, I think I'll have to go back to buying the Free Range eggs.

Monday, October 05, 2009

four years

Today marks the four year anniversary of the day I got on a plane and moved from the city I had lived in my entire life. I moved almost 2900km to the east from Calgary, where I had never lived more than about 20 minutes from a family member, to Ottawa- where I knew one person (and he had just moved here in August). I think it was the scariest thing I had ever done, and yet with the naive optimism of a 25 year old, I just kind of figured everything would work out just fine.

So there I was, leaving everyone I knew to go somewhere strange (I hadn't even visited), and I didn't even have a job...I remember dropping off my sister at school that day and being kind of relieved that our "see you at Christmas" was happening there instead of in a crowded airport. I had coffee with my dad, a very pregnant sister in law, a hyper 2 year old (who was the only Lobbster kid born at that time) and my brother in law at the airport. It felt really surreal sitting there at the airport Starbucks knowing that this wouldn't be "home" anymore. I said my goodbyes, headed through security with my latte (oh the days before the liquid ban) and thought something along the lines of "here goes nothing". Jordan met me at the airport in Ottawa and there started our new Ottawa adventure.

My first day in Ottawa was hot and sticky. It was unseasonably warm and I couldn't believe how humid it was- but I got to check out the canal and did a little walking downtown. My first post in Ottawa was short and sweet about some things I had noticed so far: 1st post as an Ottawan.
I was surprised to see that milk still came in bags here, grossed out that I might see a rat, shocked that j-walking was the norm (oh, I learned how to do it with the best of them), and was entertained by random daytime parades. And we never did repaint...

The last four years have been eventful:
Jordan's first trip to Quebec (clearly a sign of things to come)
My first Sens game, getting used to life without a car, job interviews, the debut and many returns of the ghetto tree:

my first experience with freezing rain, my first day at my job, getting married:



crazy ass downtown people, the discovery of the rib cook off (oooh man have we enjoyed that one), the never ending battle with humidity, my "start to run" project, first races:

More races:

(kind of crazy that I left Calgary kind of "doughy" and out of shape...now I can run half marathons and Jordan qualified for Boston!)
Jack Layton close calls, finally a Jack Layton meeting:

Trips to Vermont, to Paris, to San Francisco:




Lots has happened both in our lives and in everyone's life. We've moved, Jordan started and has all but completed his PhD (he just has to defend), he got a job as a professor, two nephews have been born, my sister finished university, got a "real job", met a boyfriend, got in engaged and bought a condo...both of my parents have retired. My grandmother died, my cousin had a baby, friends have gotten married, friends have bought houses...life has just marched along. I have friends who have moved away and then back to Calgary after seeing the world. As much as 4 years seems like so little time, it is also an eternity in your 20s.

As I said before, I left Calgary 4 years ago today (and actually, as I write this, practically 4 years to the minute) with the naive certainty that things would just work out- and they have. I guess it wasn't such a naive thought after all.