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Hand sanitizer can be harmful to children, but experts say benefits outweigh risks in COVID-19 fight

One of many ways of trying to keep children safe from the COVID-19 illness has also meant increasing their exposure to products that can be toxic and have harmful side effects when misused or mislabelled.

Hand sanitizer has become ubiquitous during the pandemic as a proven way to fight the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But as the virus-killing liquids, gels and sprays proliferate in our daily lives, so do their inherent risks, especially for young children.

The number of accidental poisonings involving hand sanitizer and children has sharply increased since the pandemic began when compared with previous years, according to the Ontario Poison Centre.

In Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut (the data provided includes all three jurisdictions), there were 536 cases of accidental poisonings between January and September, compared to 318 cases in the same period last year.

August saw the sharpest one-month increase, with 101 reported poisonings. That compared with 29 in August 2019. 

The majority of cases involved children five and younger, according to the poison centre.

Dr. Anna Banerji says parents need to be cautious when using hand sanitizer with young children. (Submitted by Dr. Anna Banerji)

The amount of harm consuming hand sanitizer would have on a child would depend on the amount consumed and the ingredients, according to Dr. Anna Banerji, pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Banerji said ingesting hand sanitizers could have less severe effects such as drowsiness, to more serious effects, including trouble breathing.

“It could even kill them,” she said in an interview.

Hand sanitizers containing methanol are of particular concern. They are not approved by Health Canada. Yet, a product has recently found its way onto store shelves in Canada. Earlier this week, discount retailer Dollarama recalled a brand of hand sanitizer containing the chemical.

Ingesting a methanol-based hand sanitizer could cause severe toxicity, blindness, kidney failure and could also be fatal, Banerji said.

Hand sanitizers have been growing in popularity for years, with big brands such as Purell becoming household names. Some even come in kid-friendly packaging, colours and scents. At least one product is marketed as “fruit flavour.”

Fruit Flavour Children Cartoon Hand Sanitizer is sold at Walmart. (walmart.ca)

Skin irritation

Along with the risk of young children accidentally consuming hand sanitizers, there’s also concern about what every day use can do to the skin.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are “drying agents” and when heavily used could be irritating to children with eczema or sensitive skin, according to Banerji. In more severe cases, hand sanitizers could dry skin to the point of cracking, which could be a risk for infection, she said.

There’s also the risk of over-sanitizing hands.

“It kills bad and good bacteria,” Banerji said. “It may change the flora of bacteria on your skin and allow aggressive drug-resistant bacteria to grow.”

The Ontario Poison Centre recommends using just one squirt when sanitizing the hands of young children and making sure to allow it to completely dry.

WATCH | How to determine a hand sanitizer is safe to use:

With recalls being issued in Canada for more than a hundred brands of hand sanitizers, The National’s Andrew Chang explains how to determine if one is safe and effective to use. 2:22

Liane Fransblow, co-ordinator of injury prevention at Montreal Children’s Hospital, said prior to the pandemic, hand sanitizer was not recommended for use with young children. Now it is, she said, but children under the age of six should be supervised by an adult when sanitizing.

Hand sanitizer should be kept out of reach and out of sight of young children, Fransblow said.

“We should keep hand sanitizer the way we would keep any other poison.”

At the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, hand sanitizer is available at screening stations located at building entrances. Many classrooms have sinks, and handwashing is encouraged. In classrooms without sinks, hand sanitizer is provided.

Hand sanitizer is only accessible in staff-supervised areas, a TDSB spokesperson said.

Benefits outweigh risks

Experts say parents should be cautious about choosing and using hand sanitizer on their children, and continue to use it in the absence of soap and water.

Kelly Grindrod, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy, said hand sanitizer is helping to stop COVID-19 from spreading.

“Especially in this particular time, with cold and flu season and COVID, there’s probably a lot of benefit to using hand sanitizer throughout the day to avoid getting viruses into your eyes, nose, your mouth,” Grindrod said.

Associate professor of pharmacy Kelly Grindrod says that while there are risks involved with children using hand sanitizer, it is an effective way to kill viruses and should be used during the pandemic. (Kelly Grindrod)

Most of all, parents should be watching for methanol-based products and hand sanitizers not recommended for children or pregnant women. Grindrod said they have the most risk of causing skin irritation or other side effects and could cause the most harm if ingested.

“The solution is to have better hand sanitizer,” she said.

Grindrod said you should always look for a hand sanitizer’s Natural Product Number (NPN) or Drug Identification Number (DIN), which means it has been registered with Health Canada.

According to Banerji, the risks associated with hand sanitizer are something that can be managed through proper labelling and public awareness.

“Hand sanitizers used wisely and kept in safe place is something we need to continue to do,” she said.

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Health Canada recalls some hand sanitizers over industrial-grade ethanol content

Health Canada says some hand sanitizers are being recalled because they contain industrial-grade ethanol.

The agency says industrial-grade ethanol contains chemicals that may not be approved for use in hand sanitizers.

It warns that frequent use of these products can result in dry skin, causing irritation or cracking.

The products on the recall list include Eltraderm Hand Sanitizer, Gel 700 Hand Sanitizer, Sanilabs Hand Sanitizer and Walker Emulsions Hand Sanitizer.

Consumers are advised to stop using the products immediately and return them to their local pharmacy for proper disposal.

Health Canada says it’s monitoring the effectiveness of the recalls.

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Sudan says it will hand over former dictator Bashir to International Criminal Court

A top Sudanese official said Tuesday the country’s transitional authorities and rebel groups have agreed to hand over former autocratic president Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to face trial for war crimes, including mass killings in Darfur.

Bashir, who was overthrown by the military last year amid a public uprising, is wanted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide related to the Darfur conflict. Since his ouster in April, he has been in jail in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, on charges of corruption and killing protesters.

Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the country’s sovereign council and a government negotiator, said the council agreed with rebel groups in Darfur to hand over those wanted by the ICC to face justice in The Hague. He didn’t mention Bashir by name.

Al-Taishi did not say when they would transfer Bashir and others wanted by the ICC, and the transitional administration would need to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute to allow for the transfer of the former president to The Hague.

He spoke in a news conference in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, where the government and rebels are holding talks to end the country’s decades-long civil war.

In the Darfur conflict, rebels among the territory’s ethnic Central African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of discrimination and oppression by the Arab-dominated Khartoum government. The government responded with a scorched earth assault of aerial bombings and unleashed the Janjaweed militia. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million driven from their homes.

Along with Bashir, the ICC has indicted two other senior figures in his regime — Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein, who was interior and defence minister during much of the conflict, and Ahmed Haroun, a senior security chief at the time who last month was named by Bashir to run the ruling National Congress Party.

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Oculus Quest Becomes the First VR Headset With Hand Tracking

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A good VR experience can make you feel like you could reach out and touch things in the virtual world. You can’t of course, but the Oculus Quest is getting you one step closer with full hand tracking technology. You can set down the controllers, and the headset will follow your hands, rendering them in the virtual world with the help of its cameras. 

The number of Oculus headsets has increased over the last few years, making it a challenge to know which system does what. Previously, the company just had the Rift headset for PCs. Now, there’s a Rift S for PC gaming and the Oculus Go for smart-phone style mobile VR. The Oculus QuestSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce is right in the middle, which has been something of a sweet spot for consumers. This $ 399 standalone headset is more powerful than the Oculus Go, has real-world “inside-out tracking” location awareness, and comes with two touch controllers. 

With the newest software update, you might be able to ditch the controllers completely… in certain situations. The headset has four built-in cameras, and it uses those to identify your hands, allowing the software to incorporate them into the virtual landscape. Theoretically, that will allow you to manipulate objects and play games sans controller. This feature doesn’t work with any games yet, though. You’ll only be able to go controller-free in the Oculus Quest’s root menu, but there is an SDK for developers to begin adding hand tracking. 

The Quest has very rudimentary controls for hand tracking right now. When you leave your hands open, the system uses them like cursors in the same way it does the motion controllers. You can tap your thumb and index finger together to “click” on menu items. It also supports dragging items when you hold those fingers together. 

This feature is technically impressive, and it reportedly works well. Playing around in menus is not why people buy VR headsets,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce though. It’s going to be up to game developers to find ways to make hand tracking useful. It will probably never allow for the same level of interaction as a controller with multiple buttons and thumbsticks. However, gamers might be willing to accept simpler experiences if they feel more realistic by freeing them from controllers. 

The hand tracking features are rolling out on the Oculus Quest now. Developers should have the updated SDK within a week to start developing games with the feature.

Now read:

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Marc-Andre Fleury, Golden Knights hand Leafs 6th straight loss

The only thing missing for Marc-Andre Fleury was a magic wand.

Fleury made 31 saves for his 450th win, including an incredible diving stop late in the game, and the Vegas Golden Knights held off the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 on Tuesday night.

While his clutch save against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final with 1.2 seconds remaining might still be the biggest of his 16-year career, Fleury now has an argument for the most spectacular.

With the Golden Knights clinging to a 3-2 advantage and less than four minutes left, Ilya Mikheyev fired a shot that went off the crossbar and directly to Nic Petan, who was staring at a wide-open net and a chance to score his first goal of the season. But Petan’s backhand from the bottom of the circle was thwarted as Fleury dove back to his left and with his body outstretched snatched the puck before it hit twine, sending 18,292 fans into a frenzy — even some wearing Maple Leafs jerseys.

“It was fun. A little lucky cause I didn’t stop the first one; it was off the crossbar,” said Fleury, who is three wins behind New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for sixth place on the career list. “It’s good when you get those second opportunities to redeem yourself. As a goalie those are the saves that maybe make you feel like when you’re a player and score a goal — the saves I love to play for.”

Mark Stone, Cody Glass, Tomas Nosek and Cody Eakin scored for Vegas. But for the second consecutive game it was Fleury who kept the Golden Knights in it with outstanding stops, particularly when the Maple Leafs turned up the pressure in the third period.

With 14:59 left, Fleury denied William Nylander on the doorstep. Then with 11:21 remaining, he stymied Toronto captain John Tavares’ first shot of the game, tipped the puck with the paddle of his stick to himself and snared it with his glove.

It was that kind of night for Fleury.

Moments later, with the heat still on, he robbed Nylander by sliding across the crease and stretching out his left pad at the right moment to prevent the puck from sneaking into the corner of the net.

Fleury, who shut out Calgary 6-0 on Sunday, became the seventh goaltender in NHL history to win 450 games.

“He’s pretty incredible when he makes types of saves like that,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “As a coach you come to expect that from him. He makes those saves. He’s acrobatic. He never gives up on the puck.”

Jason Spezza had a goal and an assist and Zach Hyman also scored for Toronto. Frederik Andersen, who has lost his last four starts, stopped 33 shots.

The struggling Maple Leafs have lost six in a row and are 0-5-1 since star winger Mitch Marner went down. Toronto dropped to 9-10-4 on the season and has just two regulation victories in its last 16 games.

“We had lots of chances. … Bottom line is we’ve got to stick with it and just keep grinding,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s disappointing, but I’m always about the process and how hard guys play. We played way harder, so I thought that was good.”

After Max Pacioretty’s shot trickled through Anderson’s pads into the crease, Glass was there to clean up for a man-advantage goal that gave Vegas a 1-0 lead midway through the second period.

Toronto tied it when Mikheyev entered the zone and dropped the puck off for Spezza, who fired it past Fleury early in the third.

Vegas answered immediately when Nosek made amends for missing an earlier breakaway when he stole the puck in the neutral zone, raced in on a breakaway, put a filthy deke on Andersen and backhanded the puck into the net to make it 2-1 just 42 seconds after Spezza’s goal.

Stone extended the lead to 3-1 with a power-play drive from the right dot at 10:22. Hyman cut Vegas’ lead to one with his first goal of the season at 12:47, but Eakin put the game away when he scored the 100th goal of his career into an empty net with 21 seconds left.

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With regular-season title in hand, Wolfpack can nurse injuries and manage like Kawhi

Now it is official. The Toronto Wolfpack is untouchable.

The heavy lifting has been done and the mission accomplished. Others will scrap, battle and clamber to join the Wolfpack in the promotion playoffs, but none can surpass what has already been achieved. The Wolfpack are regular-season champions.

Yet these are dangerous times for a team that can’t be caught.

On the surface it is purely academic. The Wolfpack’s narrow win over Widnes renders the remainder of its regular season meaningless. There are 5 games remaining and Toronto can afford to lose them all.

But below the surface, there is much to be done. Coach Brian McDermott has set a high bar and must not allow standards to drop. His players cannot merely coast to the finish line. To do so would set a precarious precedent.

Rest vs. rust

McDermott must ensure minds and bodies are focused. Professional athletes are, by definition, competitive. It is simply part of their DNA, but even the best have a bad day at the office from time to time.

Is it time to protect the players? It must be tempting to wrap them up in cotton wool and wait for the post season. That way they don’t risk a serious injury in a game that has no bearing on their path to promotion.

WATCH | Wolfpack clinch Betfred regular-season title with win over Widnes:

Watch the Toronto Wolfpack face off against the Widnes Vikings in Betfred Championship Rugby League play. 1:56:02

Tempting, but erroneous. Injuries and suspensions are part and parcel of the game — a fact accepted as an occupational hazard by players and coaches alike. Athletes cannot live in a bubble — they live for the excitement of the weekend.

It would also be a very long wait. Having already locked up first place in the regular season, the Wolfpack is guaranteed a bye in the opening round of the playoffs. By my reckoning, Toronto’s next ‘meaningful’ game doesn’t take place until the third week of September.

Players, naturally, just want to play. They also want the routine of regular practice and the challenge of weekly goals. McDermott could stand down most of his senior squad for a month or more but it would surely play havoc with their equilibrium.

Opponents still hunting for playoffs

It might also be unfair on their opponents. Toronto may have nothing more than pride to play for but that is certainly not the case for the teams the Wolfpack will face in the coming weeks. For some their seasons are on the line.

Take their next opponent for example. McDermott is preparing the team for Sunday’s tilt against his old club, Bradford. The Bulls are playing catch up — desperate for a win to remain in the hunt for a post-season berth.   

The Wolfpack’s final four games take place in Toronto and all will have significance for the visitors. York City and Leigh Centurions are battling for higher seedings in the playoffs while Barrow are trying to avoid relegation alongside Rochdale.

McDermott and his staff will do what is right for the Wolfpack players. A little squad rotation won’t do any harm. It will keep everyone on their toes and eager to prove they can earn a starting role when the playoffs begin.

Game management can be a great asset when done properly. Look how the Raptors managed Kawhi Leonard’s game time in the lead up to the post season. The medical staff got him fit and, crucially, kept him healthy when it really mattered.

The Wolfpack has strength in depth. Every successful team must have genuine competition for places and Toronto is no exception. It has come through two big tests recently — and had to make do without Gareth O’Brien, Ricky Leutele and Matty Russell in beating the resilient Vikings.

None need to be rushed back. Sixteen straight wins have bought Toronto the advantage of a little more time to heal the walking wounded. But the weekly application and intensity must remain. McDermott will see to that.

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Earthquakes hand struggling Whitecaps 5th straight loss

Chris Wondolowski had a goal and an assist on Saturday as his San Jose Earthquakes beat the slumping Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1.

The ‘Caps (4-11-8) have now lost five Major League Soccer games in a row and are winless in their last nine outings across all competition.

Valeri Qazaishvili and Magnus Eriksson also scored for the Quakes (10-7-4), who have victories in five of their last six matchups.

Centre back Doneil Henry put away Vancouver’s lone strike on Saturday.

WATCH | Whitecaps fall to Earthquakes to record 5th straight loss:

The Vancouver Whitecaps fell to the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 on Saturday, losing their 6th game in a row. 1:07 

Whitecaps goalie Maxime Crepeau had eight saves, while the lone shot Vancouver put on target went past Quakes ‘keeper Daniel Vega.

The ‘Caps were massively out-worked offensively, with San Jose outshooting the home team 32 to six.

TFC pays for shambolic defence

Tommy McNamara, Tomas Martinez and Mauro Manotas scored as the Houston Dynamo recorded a rare road win Saturday, ending Toronto FC’s recent resurgence with a 3-1 MLS victory.

Toronto, which made wholesale roster changes in its third game in a week, had plenty of the ball but paid for some shambolic defending and a misfiring offence before an announced crowd of 25,949 at BMO Field.

It was an uncomfortable evening all round. Toronto was under a heat warning Saturday and the temperatures were in the low 30s at kickoff.

Altidore and Bradley, both designated players, started on the bench. The team said Bradley was being rested — the first time he has been a healthy non-starter since April 2018 for a game at Colorado in the CONCACAF Champions League.

It made for some high-priced spectators with Toronto’s bench making more than US$ 13 million this season.

WATCH | Dynamo earn rare road win in Toronto:

The Houston Dynamo thumped Toronto FC 3-1 on Saturday night, snapping and 8-game road losing skid. 1:08

After enduring an eight-game winless streak (0-5-3), Toronto had righted the ship in recent weeks. It had won its last two and lost just once in the five games (3-1-1) prior to Saturday.

The Dynamo had been going in the other direction, losing three straight — giving up 11 goals in the process — and winning just two of their last 12 matches (2-8-2) prior to Saturday after a 6-1-1 start to the season.

Houston had lost its last eight road league games — outstcored 20-4 — since winning 4-1 at Colorado on March 30.

Houston (9-9-3) led 2-0 at the half and could have been up by four if not for some fine saves by Quentin Westberg.

Substitute Jozy Altidore, with a fine header, scored for Toronto (8-9-5) in the 75th minute to cut the lead to 3-1. It was his eighth of the season.

An 83rd-minute Toronto goal off a Michael Bradley free kick was ruled offside.

Crew edge Impact to snap 10-game winless skid

David Accam broke a tie in the 46th minute and the Columbus Crew beat the 10-man Montreal Impact 2-1 on Saturday night to snap a 10-game winless streak.

Accam curled it past goalkeeper Evan Bush to give the Crew (6-14-3) the lead. The goal was initially disallowed after Accam was called offside on Pedro Santos’ pass, but referee Robert Sibiga quickly overturned it, giving the Crew the goal after video review.

WATCH | Accam’s 1st career MLS goal is the difference maker vs. Montreal:

Columbus Crew SC put an end to a 10-match winless slide as they edged the Monteal Impact 2-1. 2:08

The Impact (9-11-3) went down a man in the 55th minute when Bacary Sagna fouled Accam from behind.

Columbus opened the scoring in the sixth minute. Josh Williams beat the goalkeeper to Wil Trapp’s free kick and looped in a header from the top of the 6-yard box. Zakaria Diallo tied it at with a header in the second minute of first-half stoppage time.

It was the Crew’s first victory since May 8.

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Infected bat ‘ran into’ hand of B.C. man who later died from rabies: health officer

A 21-year-old Parksville, B.C., man who died from rabies after coming into contact with an infected bat on Vancouver Island this spring ran into the nocturnal mammal in an “unusual” daytime encounter, health officials said Tuesday.

Nick Major was spending time outdoors in mid-May when the bat “essentially ran into his hand,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Henry said Major may not have realized the gravity of the collision.

“As is often the case, when you come in contact with a bat, you may not actually see a scratch or bite,” Henry said Tuesday. “Clearly, in this case, there was at least a small puncture wound that led to the infection.”

Major developed symptoms of rabies six weeks later and died at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on Saturday.

‘You made such a tremendous impact’

Major was a popular martial arts instructor in Parksville, a community of 12,500 people located on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, about 40 kilometres north of Nanaimo.

His family has asked for privacy.

The young man’s death has caused an outpouring of grief in the community, and tributes have poured in to the Facebook page of the martial arts studio where he taught.

A 21-year-old man died from rabies at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on July 13. The man encountered the infected bat on Vancouver Island in May. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

“I know every parent of boys in this community hopes for their son to turn out as amazing as Nick was,” wrote one parent.

“We all will miss him and the sudden loss of such an incredible role model will be felt deeply by this entire community, young and old.”

Parents posted pictures of their children, beaming as they stood beside Major.

“You made such a tremendous impact on the people of this community, on the kids who saw you as a hero and friend, on the parents who quickly knew they could trust you absolutely with helping to guide and shape the lives of their kids,” wrote another parent.

“If victory in life is measured by the impact we make, then you have left this life victorious.”

A fundraising page was set up to help Major’s family while he was in intensive care. The organizer announced his death Saturday morning.

“Nick was an inspiration to everyone, and his memory will continue to inspire others as we remember him,” she wrote.

“This was such a shocking and unbelievably devastating loss for Nick’s family.”

‘Any contact with a bat at all is risky’

Friends said Major contracted the disease in the Tofino area, on the opposite side of Vancouver Island.

Henry said it is extremely rare for someone to die from rabies in B.C.

Major’s death marked the second rabies-related fatality in the province since Health Canada began tracking reports of the disease in 1924. The first was in 2003.

A little brown bat, or Myotis lucifugus, is pictured on B.C.’s Vancouver Island in an undated stock photo. The bat is a species of mouse-eared microbat found across North America and weighs only about eight grams. (Shutterstock)

Bats are the only carrier and reservoir of rabies in B.C. — the latter term meaning they can carry and pass on the virus without showing symptoms.

Rabies can be spread through a microscopic bite or a scratch but also through contact with mucous membranes — like one’s mouth, nose, and eyelids — via saliva.

“Any contact with a bat at all is risky,” said Henry.

“But as we say, most bats go about their life without coming into contact with humans.”

What to do after a brush with a bat

Anyone who encounters a bat in B.C. should wash any contact area thoroughly with soap and seek medical attention for a risk assessment.

The post-exposure rabies vaccine, Henry said, is a “very effective” series of four shots that build upon a person’s existing immune system to help fight off the virus before illness can begin.

A little brown bat, one of 16 species of bat living in B.C. (Submitted by Cory Olson)

Henry said people should see a medical professional even if symptoms don’t appear, as the virus can incubate for months or years before an infected person starts to feel sick.

Anyone whose pets have come into contact with a bat should take the animal to a veterinarian.

Bats in B.C.

There are 16 species of bats living in B.C., nine of which are found on Vancouver Island. Those species are known to roost in buildings, mines, cliffs, caves, bat houses, rock piles and trees — specifically cottonwoods.

Danielle Dagenais, a bat biologist with the B.C. Community Bat Program, said bats with rabies may seem especially sick or weak. People should be especially wary of bats behaving strangely, including ones flying around during the day.

Dagenais said a bat should never be handled with bare hands.

“A lot of the bats that are living in people’s homes are very, very small animals. They have very, very small teeth and you might not notice that you have been bitten or scratched,” the biologist said. “It’s very, very important people wear gloves.”

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said around 13 per cent of bats tested are positive for rabies, though Dagenais said the actual rate is likely lower considering the centre only tests a portion of bats in the province.

Elsewhere in Canada, coyotes, foxes, raccoons and skunks can carry the rabies virus. Dogs are carriers in some countries, but that has been eliminated in Canada thanks to vaccination programs.

The World Health Organization said 95 per cent of the world’s annual rabies fatalities happen in Africa and Asia.

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