Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health at Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, hosted a local media call on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, to give a community update on the respiratory season within the KFL&A region and remind us what our community can do to have a safe holiday weekend.
According to Oglaza, the respiratory illness season has started, and we are seeing a number of respiratory pathogens circulating in the KFL&A region, including rhinovirus, enterovirus, and COVID-19.
According to the Mayo Clinic, rhinovirus (“rhino” means nose) infections cause the common cold. Rhinoviruses may also cause sore throats and ear and sinus infections. Enterovirus infections can be mild, resulting in few or no symptoms or symptoms similar to the common cold, and a few people develop viral pneumonia. Some strains of enterovirus, like hand-foot-and-mouth disease, also cause a generalized, non-itchy rash on the skin or sores inside the mouth. This type of illness is by far the most common enteroviral infection.
“The respiratory pathogen activity continues to increase both in our region and throughout the province,” said Oglaza, indicating that over the past two weeks, visits to emergency departments and hospitalizations due to respiratory illness have now reached levels not typically seen until later in the season.
“As we approach the holiday weekend, which is a time to spend with loved ones,” Oglaza said, “I wanted to take this time to remind our community of what can anyone do to protect themselves, friends, family, and those most vulnerable in our community.”
He reiterated the message we have all become acutely aware of during the pandemic: that measures which are simple to implement can help prevent the spread of any respiratory illness.
These measures, said Oglaza, include “checking for symptoms and staying home when sick until 24 hours after symptoms are resolved; wearing a mask for 10 days after the start of experiencing respiratory ailments; staying up to date with all recommended vaccinations for COVID-19 and the influenza vaccines that will be available later this season; and basic public health infection prevention and control measures such as practicing frequent hand hygiene. These are core actions that anyone can do” to reduce the risk of transmission during gatherings and limit the spread of respiratory viruses.
He also recommended gathering outdoors or in areas with higher ventilation if it is possible to do so.
Also, if visiting friends or family in long-term care, the provincial government has provided directions for visiting them safely. It is also helpful to contact the long-term care facility you are planning to visit for additional information about how to visit safely and any specific requirements the home may have.
Getting all COVID-19 vaccination doses that you are eligible for provides an additional layer of protection, Oglaza emphasized. “This fall, there’s a number of locations [listed] on our website… There are specially designated walk-in times to increase [vaccine] access for children and individuals at higher risk of severe illness. Anyone interested can access the schedule on [the KFL&A Public Health] website, which is updated weekly.”
For those who may be at higher risk of contracting or suffering more severely with Covid-19, Oglaza recommended talking to your health care provider ahead of time, so that they may rapidly access available antiviral treatments for vulnerable individuals when and if it is necessary.
However, for most healthy people who may only experience mild symptoms, “it might be perfectly appropriate to rest, stay at home, drink fluids, and take care if the condition worsens,” he said.
Oglaza insisted it is also very important to get vaccinated against influenza this fall.
“Influenza vaccination will start this month for individuals residing in long-term care or those who are at high risk of complications. As well, health care providers will be prioritized to receive it first,” Oglaza said, stating that shipments of influenza vaccine will be coming later in October. “And this will be followed by the general population rollout in November… So when that vaccine becomes available, we encourage everyone to get immunized to protect themselves and to protect others.”
Most importantly, Oglaza said, regardless of whether one is considering COVID-19, influenza, or colds, “Be mindful of symptoms. Screen for symptoms before getting together with loved ones this holiday weekend, and stay home if you experience illness. Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving weekend.”