Cold and flu lead to ‘insanely high’ volumes of sick children in clinics – Sask. medical

Cold and flu lead to ‘insanely high’ volumes of sick children in clinics – Sask.  medical

Saskatchewan clinics are filled with sick children who are once again contracting respiratory viruses that were virtually non-existent in the past two years due to pandemic behaviors, according to a Saskatoon family doctor.

Dr. Adam Ogieglo is seeing “a high volume of sick children” at the clinic where he works.

Most of his patients are children under the age of 15 with respiratory viruses such as influenza, RSV, and rhinovirus. He said he, too, has seen some come in with strep throat, ear infections and pneumonia in recent days.

“The concern is these non-COVID illnesses and the effect that it is having on our children,” he said.

Biweekly data from the Saskatchewan government’s Community Respiratory Illness Surveillance Program (CRISP) confirms Ogieglo’s experience.

Influenza cases have almost tripled to 192 confirmed cases since the end of October, according to the CRISP report from October 30 to November 5. The majority, or 61 percent, of the cases are people age 19 and younger.

“We always predicted that in the fall we will see all these viruses being transmitted,” said chief medical officer of health Dr. Saqib Shahab.

Saskatchewan has officially entered cold and flu season, Shahab said, with a large number of cases starting in the north and moving south.

While cases of influenza are on the rise, rhinovirus, also known as the common cold, remains the most common respiratory virus detected in children right now, according to CRISP data.

Anecdotally, the Regina Catholic Schools Division said it is seeing more people call in absentee.

The Prairie Valley School Division is seeing similar issues with attendance. Records show the division averaged 88 percent attendance in September and October, down slightly from previous years.

However, both school divisions noted that absences can occur for a number of reasons other than illness, such as weather and family travel.

The Regina Public Schools Division does not maintain student attendance records for the entire division. However, officials “are not seeing any unusual numbers of absences due to illness among students or staff,” according to a division spokesperson.

“We ask school families to keep their children home if they have any signs of a cold or illness and to report the absence to school.”

As with COVID-19, Shahab said there are several ways to keep yourself and others healthy this fall, including flu shots, masks and handwashing.

“Staying home if you’re sick is really important because RSV and influenza spread more when you’re sick. They don’t really transmit when you’re asymptomatic,” Shahab said.

Access to patient care in clinics and emergency rooms is likely to be reduced due to the rise in respiratory viruses, according to Dr. Ogieglo.

He is already seeing pressures at his urgent care clinic in Saskatoon with 40 to 50 patients waiting at any given time, adding a three-hour wait time that has become the standard.

He worries that the long wait could deter patients with minor symptoms from going unchecked, which is why he said it’s important to stick to pandemic behaviors to help ease pressures and reduce wait times.

“If we all get sick at the same time, we won’t all go to a doctor,” he said.

“It would be nice to slow this down a bit, extend it and flatten the curve. We learned all about that with COVID. We could easily do that with these other viruses.”

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