Christine Birak

Latest from Christine Birak

Why doctors think you should get the flu shot this year — and soon

As COVID-19 cases climb in many provinces, flu season is also on the horizon. Doctors say there’s more interest in the flu shot this year — and there should be. But they’re warning patients to get the shot sooner rather than later. Here's why.

No more nose swabs? Why a saliva test for COVID-19 could be a 'game changer'

Good news — spitting into a cup may soon be an alternative to having an extra-long swab pushed up your nose to test for COVID-19. Unfortunately, it isn’t yet available in Canada, but here’s why the test, and its emergency authorization in the U.S., could be a big step forward in keeping the pandemic under control.

How scientists aim to make a safe COVID-19 vaccine in record time

Vaccine development normally takes years, if not decades. But scientific teams around the world are aiming to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in 12 to 18 months. Here’s how they’re speeding up the process and why they think a vaccine produced this fast will be just as safe as any other.

Asymptomatic COVID-19 findings dim hopes for 'herd immunity' and 'immunity passports'

A closer look at people who tested positive for COVID-19 but never developed symptoms has found that such asymptomatic carriers have few to no detectable antibodies just weeks after infection, suggesting they may not develop lasting immunity.

Testing for COVID-19 in sewage could serve as 'advance warning,' help prepare for 2nd wave

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in the feces of infected people, but in a way, it’s a good thing. It means that testing sewage may be a convenient way to track outbreaks. Here’s a closer look.

'Are they safe to inhale?': Vaping liquids in Canada contain potentially harmful chemicals, tests show

We had several e-cigarette liquids currently on the Canadian market tested at a New York lab and found they contain potentially harmful chemicals, including a suspected carcinogen banned in food in the U.S.

How the way we talk about addiction can make it harder for people to recover

Many medical professionals agree that the language around addiction can affect a person's recovery, and there is a push to adopt terms that are less dismissive and more human.
Second Opinion

Why does Europe suddenly have measles?

Until recently, the prospect of measles elimination in developed countries seemed reasonable. But the number of cases in Europe soared this year and in 2017.

Low-carb diets associated with lower life expectancy, study suggests

Many people have embraced low carbohydrate diets to lose weight, but they may be putting their long-term health at risk by eating too much animal protein and fat.

How one Canadian food court eliminated 117 bags of garbage a day

A food court in Toronto has cut the amount of garbage it produced from 120 bags a day to just three. Here’s how they did it, and what other fast food vendors, food courts and their customers can do to cut back on fast food waste.

Freshii food chain a holdout in posting calories on menu boards

A popular restaurant chain that markets itself as a healthy alternative to fast food does not post calories on its menu boards, flouting Ontario law.

The Santa Claus story: Beloved tradition or damaging lie?

Jolly Old Saint Nick is perhaps the most beloved icon of the Christmas holidays. But an essay recently published in the medical journal Lancet Psychiatry questions what we should be telling our kids about Santa Claus.

Pregnant in Florida: Would you like to do a Zika test?

In a Miami doctor's office, nervous moms-to-be receive Zika counselling. "One mosquito can change everything, one mosquito bite can change everything," says the doctor.

Subway system laden with harmless bacteria, researchers say

Germaphobe commuters can relax. Subway surfaces are covered with normal bacteria from some surprising sources, say biologists who hope to use the information to build an early warning system for public health threats.

$81 a month buys a healthier baby

When pregnant women were trusted with $81 a month in prenatal benefits, no strings attached, their babies’ physical health did better, say Manitoba researchers. They would like similar income supplements to be offered across Canada.