Environmental health

SARS-CoV-2 transmission: Findings and proposed terminology

As the SARS-CoV-2 virus drives a worldwide pandemic, our scientific understanding of how it is transmitted is constantly evolving. There is an ongoing debate on various aspects of this process, particularly aerosol transmission. In part, this debate reflects a lack of consensus on the definitions of the terms used to describe the transmission of infectious agents via the respiratory tract.

This text presents a review of the scientific literature focused on the aerosol mode of transmission, but also includes information about other modes of transmission. Authored by a multidisciplinary team, the report seeks to inform the decision-making process of public health authorities, teams of experts, ministerial policymakers, and health and social services facility managers.

Until now, infection prevention and control recommendations have been based on a dichotomous approach, i.e., infection transmission via droplets vs. airborne routes. Yet, the growing body of knowledg…

Support Document for the Advisory Committee on COVID-19 Transmission in School and Healthcare Environments and on the Role of Ventilation

This support document was written at the request of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) to support the work of the members of the group of scientific and technical experts focusing on the use of ventilation in healthcare and educational institutions during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this document is, more specifically, to take stock of the current knowledge on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in building interiors and to develop a portrait of the role that ventilation in indoor environments may play in a pandemic context. As the situation and knowledge surrounding SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) are rapidly developing, the information provided in this document is subject to updates.

This document is not an exhaustive review of the scientific literature. The technical terms used herein are those generally used by the cited authors, and the terminology used is adapted to the conventions for use defined by the Ventilation Working Group of the In…

Groupe de travail sur la ventilation

COVID-19: Adaptation of Public Health Recommendations for Extreme Heat in Accordance with Physical Distancing Recommendations

This document has been updated for internal use by the Health and Social Services Network.

COVID-19: Opening Community Gardens Safely

A number of questions are arising from regional public health directorates, organizations, and national and regional partners on the possibility of starting the season for community and collective gardens while respecting physical distancing and hygiene measures against COVID-19. Many partners are trying to determine if it will be possible to open community gardens on May 1, the start date for direct seeding. The most significant production usually begins in the second or third week of May. Québec has a short cultivation period. The decision to open the gardens warrants timely examination as a delayed opening may compromise production capacity for the entire summer season.

This document’s purpose is to support the decision-making of local authorities regarding the opening of community gardens by providing evidence of their benefits to population health as well as the conditions to respect to ensure the protection of their users in the current context of the COVID-19 pan…

Negative Psychosocial Effects of Heat Waves, Flooding, Forest Fires, and Storms on Québec Workers

In the implementation of Québec’s 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plan, the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux mandated the Institut national de santé publique du Québec with conducting an exploratory study on the psychosocial effects experienced by workers as the result of four extreme weather events, the frequency of which will be exacerbated by climate change: heat waves, flooding, storms, and forest fires.

It aims to briefly examine the literature and knowledge of various key actors in order to propose more significant next steps for research projects that respond to Québec’s workplace and public health needs and issues.

This study has shown:

  • The extreme weather events studied can have psychosocial effects on workers, but the knowledge of these effects varies greatly by event.
  • The psychosocial effects on workers have been the most thoroughly documented in the scientific literature for storms, less well documented for floods and…

Post-Disaster Mental Health Impacts Surveillance Toolkit

Regardless of its nature, a major disaster such as an earthquake, flooding, an ice storm, a nuclear transport accident or an attack can engender a broad range of impacts on individual health and well-being and on the economy and the environment. The authorities usually properly document the immediate effects, especially as regards physical health and economic aspects. However, mental health impacts can be perceived as harder to document.

Individuals who have experienced a disaster can develop or exacerbate mental health problems that may appear several months after a disaster. It is necessary and crucial that mental health resources and services be available to help a community recover from a disaster. To ensure continued support for the community by offering sufficient, appropriate services, monitoring of the mental health impacts in the population affected becomes important. It should continue several years after an event in certain cases.

In Québec, epidemiologica…

Survey of Coroners and Medical Examiners on Toxicovigilance

A survey was conducted among coroners and medical examiners to assess the usefulness of developing a toxicovigilance program. They are in favour of setting up a toxicovigilance program based on medicolegal toxicological data from ongoing investigations. Toxicovigilance activities in the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service are also presented. 

Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, in collaboration with Institut national de santé publique du Québec and Bureau du coroner du Québec, wishes to set up a province-wide toxicovigilance program. To assess the feasibility of such a program, a review of the grey and scientific literature was conducted. The review was carried out in summer 2017 to identify examples of toxicovigilance activities based on toxicological analysis data collected by coroners and medical examiners on deceased persons before formal determination of the cause of death. The results of the literature review are presented in a related publication (Vac…

Social and Psychological Dimensions of Mining Activities and Impacts on Quality of Life

Industry and government interest in Quebec mineral development, particularly in the region targeted by the Plan Nord, is leading public health actors to study development activities and their repercussions on health. To help the public health network better understand the health repercussions of mining activities, a review of the literature has been carried out. This review documents nuisance impacts on quality of life, as well as the psychological and social effects on individuals and communities living near mineral exploration and development sites. It also summarizes the impacts of fly-in/fly-out (FIFO) on the psychological health of mine workers, as well as identifying the social and psychological effects of the mine closure/rehabilitation phase.

Main findings of the literature review

Nuisance impacts on quality of life

  • Mineral exploration and development produce nuisance impacts, chief among them dust, nois…

Portrait of zoonoses prioritized by Quebec’s observatory on zoonoses and climate change adaptation in 2015

  • In Québec, like elsewhere in the world, diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans (zoonoses), which account for about 60% of diseases communicable to humans, are currently emerging. The complex dynamics of zoonoses can be affected by climate change. In response to this complexity, the Observatoire initiated a zoonosis prioritization approach in 2015 in the context of climate change. This approach allowed it to develop a portrait of zoonoses that will serve as the basis for documenting their evolving situations in Québec, in an effort to anticipate potential issues of concern. Documenting the zoonoses also allowed it to better identify the challenges and knowledge gaps specific to the prioritized zoonoses, thereby serving as a tool to direct and optimize zoonosis research, surveillance, prevention and control activities. Twelve zoonoses were prioritized: food-borne botulism in Nunavik, campylobacteriosis, cryptosporidiosis, eastern equine encephalitis, verotoxige…

Greening cities for public health

  • Greening is taking place in cities, primarily to adapt to climate change and its effects, like heat islands. This literature review describes the impacts of green spaces on health. Some observations are also put forward for optimal green space use and design.
  • Green spaces are beneficial for physical health, particularly because they provide opportunities for physical activity. Green spaces might also have positive effects for reducing numbers of obese and overweight people, linked to morbidity. Lastly, neighbourhood green spaces reduce the mortality associated with certain diseases.
  • Green spaces also provide benefits for mental health, such as reducing symptoms of depression and reducing stress. They can have positive effects on mental well-being, feeling of recovery, good humour and vitality.
  • For seniors, these green spaces are a better place for walking and reduce the risks of chronic health problems.
  • For children, they have a positiv…