COVID, flu and RSV likely spell challenging winter, Etches says

COVID, flu and RSV likely spell challenging winter, Etches says

Ottawa’s medical officer of health is again promoting influenza and COVID vaccines as the city faces a long and challenging season for respiratory illnesses.

Dr. Vera Etches sent your first fall Wednesday press releasereviewing “very active respiratory illness season” and offering ways for people to protect themselves and others.

COVID levels have been high in recent weekswith stable or rising pandemic trends.

As of Tuesday, the city had its most active local COVID hospitalizations (50) since February after a summer with far more COVID patients than the previous two. It reported 31 COVID deaths during October.

Flu cases and test positivity are on the rise, Etches said, with the city’s first flu outbreak coming about a month earlier than normal. There’s also more RSV in townputting up an unprecedented burden at the children’s hospital.

In its update before mid septemberEtches said the next few months may be challenging due to the impacts of respiratory illnesses. On Wednesday, he said that he predicts it will be a challenge.

“This winter will be difficult for our community as multiple respiratory viruses will circulate simultaneously and create stressors in our community and our health care system,” he said.

Infectious disease experts explain the challenge

Dr. Fahad Razak, a former head of the Ontario COVID-19 scientific advisory board who teaches medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the past two flu seasons have been tame.

Influenza rates were low because public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 also helped control the spread of the flu, Razak said, but those measures no longer exist.

“What it means is that we have a population that hasn’t been exposed to as much influenza in the last two years and would potentially be at higher risk of [being] infected this year,” Razak said.

Experts have also looked at Australia, which has just experienced its worst flu season in five years. Australia and New Zealand experience flu season months before Ontario during the North American summer.

“They have seen a massive increase in cases. If that were to happen here, it would be a serious challenge to our system,” Razak said.

Ontario’s hospital system also needs to plan for a significant increase because a 50 percent increase in hospitalizations is possible and “it’s not a stretch,” Razak said.

“Pretty much what’s going to happen? I think that’s the important question we need to ask ourselves,” Razak said.

Flu season in Australia also means it’s important to get your annual flu shot earlier than usual, Dr. Gerald Evans told the CBC.

“We knew [the vaccine] it was a coincidence in the southern hemisphere, and at this early stage it looks like a good coincidence in the northern hemisphere,” said Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University.

Scientists design flu vaccines months before the flu season. So far, laboratory evidence suggests that this year’s vaccine protects against the strains of influenza that are most likely to infect a person.

Washing your hands a focus again

As Ottawa Public Health (OPH) have done in the last few weeksEtches said people should stay home when sick, see other people outside or in well-ventilated areas, and wear masks in crowded, closed spaces.

He went out of his way to say that the best way for people to protect themselves and the community at large is to stay up to date on vaccinations.

“Our collective efforts can make a difference. I urge everyone to get their fall COVID-19 booster and flu shot,” he said, adding the option to use OPH neighborhood centers to get the shots. against COVID and influenza if it is difficult to use other options. .

Once a key part of pandemic safety messages, and with this cocktail of viruses circulating in Ottawa, Etches recommends these types of activities again: wash your hands often, don’t touch your hands, nose and mouth with your hands. dirty to keep germs off your and cleaning surfaces like doorknobs that are touched frequently.

Keeping your hands clean and not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth are among the top recommendations for people to protect themselves against respiratory illnesses like COVID and influenza. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

“The precautions we took individually to get through previous waves of COVID-19 can and have worked,” he said.

“Now is the time to implement these practices back into your daily routine to keep yourself, your family and those around you healthy.”

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