/Respiratory illness season sees pre-pandemic infection levels

Respiratory illness season sees pre-pandemic infection levels

By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Contrary to the much higher than usual number of hospital visits last fall, this respiratory illness season has been more typical thus far.

Dr. Natalie Bocking, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s medical officer of health, said COVID-19 infection remains in the mix of influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

“Last year by this point in time … we were seeing very, very high levels of respiratory illness already with respiratory season almost peaking at the end of November, early December,” she told the unit’s board of health when it met Nov. 16.

So far this year, Emergency Departments have seen conditions similar to the pre-pandemic levels, she said.

“It hasn’t peaked yet,” she said. “And likely won’t peak until December and even potentially early January.”

While there’s been some measure of increased COVID-19 infections, Bocking said there hasn’t been a significant jump in the number of influenza patients. There’s been an increase in respiratory syncytial virus infections in children.

“Which is to be expected for this time of year and our landscape and geography,” she said.

Congregate settings such as long-term care homes have had 22 COVID-19 outbreaks so far this fall. There’s been 25 hospital admissions and four fatalities. There’s only been six lab-confirmed flu cases and no hospital admissions for that illness.

That number of flu cases is likely to change, she said.

“We’re still really seeing, I think, just the beginning of the influenza season as the numbers continue to increase,” Bocking said.

Communities are at the stage where many people don’t like to talk about COVID-19 and people would like to believe the coronavirus is behind us as the worldwide lockdown recedes deeper into the past.

But the reality is that it isn’t going away.

“It’s now a regular part of our respiratory viruses that will impact us and is continuing to have a significant impact on individuals, especially those people who are of advanced age,” she said.

“Twenty of the 25 hospital admissions that we’ve seen so far are among individuals over the age of 70.”