Nearly 1,800 Manitobans have received an odd piece of mail asking for a sample of their blood.
The unique delivery contains a blood test kit — complete with gloves, alcohol swabs, and a finger pricking device — and is part of a cross-country study by Statistics Canada looking into how many Canadians have been previously infected with COVID-19, whether they had symptoms or not.
“Earlier studies from healthy blood donors in May suggested that under 1 per cent of Canadians had had COVID-19, but this is likely higher now,” explains Catherin Hankins, co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, which is working with Statistics Canada on the project.
“The StatCan study will involve Canadians from childhood right throughout the life course from rural as well as urban settings to provide reliable general population estimates for provinces and territories amidst a second wave.”
With $7 million in funding from the federal government, the Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey will see test kits and surveys sent to the homes of 48,000 Canadians aged one and up, in all 10 provinces and three territories.
“As we live through a current COVID-19 resurgence, this study will provide a unique opportunity to survey and randomly test Canadians, giving us a reliable snapshot of how many people have had COVID-19,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, in a release.
“This study will give us important information on how much transmission there has been, in which parts of the country, and among which populations.
“We will then use this information, with the provinces and territories, to further inform the public health response to COVID-19 across Canada.”
Have you been invited to participate in the Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey?
— Statistics Canada (@StatCan_eng) January 9, 2021
Those chosen for the study will be asked to fill out an online questionnaire asking sociodemographic questions as well as information on COVID-19 exposure, experiences, and symptoms. They’ll then be asked to take a finger prick sample and send the dried blood spot test back for antibody testing.
“It seems a little bit out of the norm for StatCan,” admits Statistics Canada’s Erik Dorff of the mail-in blood test.
“(But) some of the cool things that can come out of it is how prevalent are antibodies based on geography, age, sex.”
While that’s all information Winnipeg-based epidemiologist Cynthia Carr says she’d like to get her hands on, she says she’s worried participation rates will be low because Canadians may be reticent of mail asking for blood samples without hearing much about the study beforehand.
“It would be nice if there was an information letter first,” she told Global News in Winnipeg.
“Because if you just get the kit before having any information about it, that might be a little bit unsettling to people. It might result in wasted kits when you could have sent it out to somebody who agreed to participate.”
Statistics Canada says it’s hoping to see at least a 50 per cent response rate for the tests, some of which have already been mailed to Canadians with more expected to be sent in the coming months.
The agency says the blood sample results will be kept confidential, however, participants will be able to request their results.
–With files from Joe Scarpelli
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
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