2018’s Biggest Health Headlines

2018's Biggest Health Headlines | Dr. Ali Ghahary

2018 saw a mixed bag of health headlines, though there were many of them. Below is a look of some of the biggest topics that made news this year, how they directly impacted Canadians, along with some helpful tips you can follow so that you stay as healthy as possible in the new year.

1. Food Recalls
Some of our favourite foods (including the not so healthy ones) faced many recalls from Health Canada and other health agencies across the country, and even the United States. Earlier this summer, salty snacks such as Ritz crackers were recalled due to salmonella fears, which prompted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to conduct a formal investigation. Symptoms of salmonella include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and headache, and typically last between 4 and 7 days. Salmonella can infect people of all ages, though the risk of actually developing salmonella is much higher in those who are younger or elderly. Perhaps the biggest recall of the year, however, was romaine lettuce; one that was similar to 2017’s recall which saw as many as 48 Canadians becoming infected with E. coli. While 2018’s recall was mostly limited to Provinces such as Ontario and Quebec, it prompted many food distributors Canada-wide to remove all romaine lettuce products from their shelves out of an abundance of caution until the leafy green vegetable was deemed safe to eat once again – and, as of Christmas Eve, Canada’s Public Health Agency gave it the green light.

2. Drug Shortages and Recalls
Food wasn’t the only thing on Canada’s recall list. Medications were, too. Earlier in the year, a brand of birth control known as Alysena 28 was recalled. This was due to potential broken pills, and it was thought that they could potentially contain less of the active ingredient, therefore reducing their effectiveness in preventing unwanted pregnancy. Woman who had been prescribed this particular brand of birth control were advised to inspect the pills upon taking them out of their packaging, and, if any abnormalities were seen, were to return them to their pharmacy for a replacement. Staying on the subject of birth control, Durex also issued a nationwide recall for certain types of condoms after they had failed their shelf-life test, though the company says that there were no immediate safety concerns associated with using the recalled condoms that anyone had to be worried about. Several medications used to prevent heart attacks, stroke, as well as treat high blood pressure were also recalled in 2018 – particularly those containing valsartan – which were thought to contain a probable human carcinogen known as N-nitrosodimethylamine (or NDMA) that could potentially increase the risk of developing cancer if taken at higher levels over an extended period of time. Canada also saw more medication shortages this past year, particularly with EpiPen, a medication required for individuals with severe, life-threatening allergies.

3. The Opioid Epidemic
The opioid crisis continues across British Columbia. In Vancouver, health officials say there is at least 1 death per day that is directly linked to opioid use (and 4 people per day Province-wide.) Just last month alone there were approximately 120 deaths in British Columbia that were linked to opioids – a number that had risen by as much as 13% compared to the year prior – and a total of as many as 1,380 deaths between January 1st and November 30th.

4. Cannabis Legalization
On October 17th, cannabis was officially legalized across Canada under the Cannabis Act. This meant that individuals aged 18 years or older would now be able to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public without having to worry about falling into any kind of trouble with the law. The rules for cannabis possession, however, slightly varied from Province-to-Province. Cannabis legalization came as good news to individuals suffering from severe chronic pain disorders who had not seen any kind of reprieve from trying other methods of treatment, such as medications.