By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Program
Some people living under the umbrella of the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit may have gotten tired of frequent talk about respiratory illness season.
But that frequency of message underscores the importance of keeping COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus top of mind, said Dr. Natalie Bocking, the medical officer of health at the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.
She gave an overview of respiratory illness season thus far when health board members met in Coburg Dec. 7.
Infection rates in much of Ontario is in the moderately higher range compared to last fall when infections happened earlier and more intensely.
“Moderately higher means that our hospitals and emergency departments are seeing an increase and they’re feeling that increase in terms of visits for respiratory illness, respiratory infections,” Bocking said.
She said that’s being driven by a number of viruses and varied age groups of patients being more susceptible to severe illness.
COVID-19 and flu cases are expected to continue to increase over the next three weeks. It’s anticipated that the peak of the current COVID-19 wave will happen over the holidays.
As for local COVID-19 activity so far in the 2023-24 respiratory season, there have been 31 outbreaks with 39 hospital admissions and 13 deaths.
The majority of those infections were in patients over the age of 70 years, she said.
“It’s certainly impacting people of older age more than other age groups,” she said.
There have been 12 lab-confirmed cases of the flu but no hospital admissions. That’s expected to change over the next few weeks.
In 2023, there were 31 deaths due to COVID-19. Almost half of that tally happened in the last few weeks.
“When a COVID-19 wave increases, and we are seeing that in the wave right now, then we expect there to be hospital admissions and deaths associated with it, unfortunately,” Bocking said.
Now is the time to get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine, she said.
“And that’s the message for all ages,” she said.