COVID-19, RSV, tick activity, and more: KFL&A MOH shares community health update

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Piotr Oglaza (right) makes his monthly community health update to the KFL&A Board of Health on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, as Board Chair Wes Garrod looks on. Screen captured image.

COVID-19 activity is high in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) region, according to the Medical Officer of Health, and other respiratory illnesses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rhinoviruses are on the rise. 

Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for KFL&A Public Health, made his monthly report to the Board of Health on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. The update included an overview of virus activity, vaccine rollout, tick seasons, and some new language programming.

Respiratory illness transmission

Oglaza stated that COVID-19 activity is high and stable, according to the five indicators for viral respiratory activities: wastewater signal, percent positivity, emergency department visits, hospitalization, and outbreaks.

“It’s not unexpected for this time of the year,” he pointed out. “We are in the midst of the respiratory illness season. This respiratory illness activity is still primarily due to COVID-19, which has been high for the past several weeks. But it is trending stable.” 

Other respiratory activity is moderate-to-high and stable, the MOH explained, noting, “we’ve seen some increase in other viruses [like] respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rhinoviruses or other pathogens that are that are circulating in the community.”

Oglaza noted that respiratory viruses are impacting emergency department visits.

“Fortunately,” he said, “we started seeing a decrease in new COVID-19 hospitalizations and also active hospitalizations by the end of last week. Hopefully that trend will either remain stable or continue to decrease throughout the rest of the season.” 

So far this fall, influenza activity is low and stable, Oglaza said.

“We still see relatively very little influenza activity, and that’s a really good thing at this point. There’s still time and benefit to get an influenza immunization,” he emphasized.

“In general, our local trends seem to reflect what’s happening in the rest of the province… [and are] expected for this time of the year.”

Vaccines

Regarding the RSV vaccine, Oglaza said that Health Units had received the supply of the vaccine, though he noted that provincial guidance limited eligibility to “individuals 60 years of age or older, living specifically in long-term care homes, elder care lodges, and specific retirement homes.” 

“Our Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPD) and Infection Prevention And Control (IPAC) teams are currently working with our long-term care and registered memory care retirement homes partners to confirm the plans and support the rollout of RSV vaccination,” Oglaza relayed, saying that there must be a gap of at least 14 days following completion of influenza and COVID vaccines before the RSV vaccine can be administered. “This is mainly for surveillance purposes,” he explained.

Currently, Oglaza noted, COVID-19 vaccine coverage is above the provincial average: 48 per cent for those over 65, and 19 per cent for all people over 12. He thanked all COVID-19-related staff and volunteers for their hard work over the last three years.

He also expressed thanks to staff at the Cataraqui Centre mall, saying, “Over the past two years, we’ve been fortunate to be able to utilize the space at the Cataraqui Centre to improve access to vaccines over the pandemic. With provincial funding for COVID-19 coming to an end on December 31, 2023, we will continue in our plan with transitioning of COVID-19 immunizations under routine programming and clinics… For the remainder of December, our staff will continue to provide these vaccines through our main office, and that’s how individuals in the community will be able to book appointments.” 

Tick activity in KFL&A

The KFL&A region is “at the epicentre… for Lyme disease activity in the province,” Oglaza said, noting that ticks are most active in spring and summer, but they can be found at any time of the year when the temperature is above freezing (0C).

A slide from Oglaza’s presentation about tick activity in the area. Graphic via KFL&A Public Health.

Seventy pharmacies in KFL&A offer post-exposure prophylaxis to customers to whom a tick was attached for more than 24 hours and from whom it has been removed within the last 72 hours.

Prenatal courses offered in Farsi

To meet emerging needs in the community, Farsi interpreters will be available in prenatal and ‘Food For You Food For Two’ programs.

“Key materials included in this course [will be in] Farsi as well as the posters advertising the course. This creates a setting to help foster community and discussion for participants,” Oglaza said.

A slide from Oglaza’s presentation shows advertising for new Farsi interpreted prenatal courses. Graphic via KFL&A Public Health.

“And in 2024,” he added, “we are planning to partner with Kingston Community Health Centres to offer prenatal classes in other languages as well, including Arabic and Spanish… These multi-language courses offer an opportunity to learn about pregnancy and having a baby in Canada for those who are new to this community and may have barriers in communicating in English.” 

To find more information about public health and any of the topics discussed in Dr. Oglaza’s update, visit the KFL&A Public Health website.

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