Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer, June 3, 2022
June 3 2022 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. PocketWell, a free companion app to the WTC online portal, provides another way to help Canadians access online mental health and substance use resources, and measure and monitor aspects of their mental well-being.
Though SARS-CoV-2 is still circulating across the country, COVID-19 disease activity indicators including daily case counts, lab test positivity and wastewater signals are continuing to decline in most areas of the country. Currently, hospitalisations remain elevated and variable, but severe illness trends are also declining in most areas.
In addition to the acute impacts of COVID-19 illness, the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to monitor current and emerging evidence on the longer-term impacts of COVID-19 infection, including post COVID-19 condition (also known as long COVID). This refers to when individuals experience new or persisting symptoms three months or more after their initial COVID-19 infection. While we are still learning about the condition, we know that it can impact both adults and children, regardless of the severity of symptoms experienced during their initial infection. Currently, the most commonly reported symptoms include fatigue, cognitive problems, sleep disturbances, and shortness of breath, among other symptoms.
As it takes time for post COVID-19 condition to be diagnosed, much of our current understanding of it comes from research conducted before the emergence of the Omicron variant in late November 2021. Studies from the pre-Omicron period suggest that approximately 30% to 40% of individuals who were not hospitalized for their initial COVID-19 infection still had one or more symptoms 12 weeks after their acute infection. That proportion may be even higher among people who were hospitalized during their initial COVID-19 infection. Evidence to date also indicates a higher prevalence of post COVID-19 condition among females compared to males.
One of the ways we are seeking to bolster the evidence base is through surveys, such as the Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey (or CCAHS). The Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada and the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force launched the second cycle of this survey in April 2022 and the third cycle will launch this month. Its primary objectives are to estimate the prevalence of post COVID-19 condition among adults in Canada and to provide information on risk factors, symptoms (including severity and duration), and impacts on daily functioning. If you receive an invitation to participate in this survey in the mail, I strongly encourage you to participate. Data collected through this initiative will not only help us improve our estimates, but will also help inform public health decision-making to support those affected by the longer-term affects of COVID-19 infection.
For now, we know the best way to reduce the risk of post COVID-19 condition is to avoid getting a COVID-19 infection. And, early evidence suggests that vaccination with two doses of COVID-19 vaccines may help reduce the risk of developing post COVID-19 condition if you subsequently become infected. If you are experiencing new or lingering symptoms months after a COVID-19 infection, please know there is help available. Reach out to your health care provider or local health resources who can help you get the support you need and assist you in managing your symptoms. For more information and links to resources, visit the Canada.ca webpage on post COVID-19 condition, which also includes related links to a number of patient-led groups that you can reach out to for support.
With COVID-19, other respiratory viruses, and emerging issues like monkeypox being current concerns in Canada, it is reassuring to know that our COVID-19 protective practices can help reduce the risks of infection and spread for all these diseases. This means continuing with our good habits like keeping recommended vaccinations up-to-date, remaining aware of disease activity in the local area and continuing to take personal precautions – including staying home if you're symptomatic or test positive, improving ventilation, and continuing to wear a mask in shared indoor or crowded spaces around people you don't live with.
We continue to work with the provinces and territories, and partners to respond to the evolving monkeypox situation. At present, at least 550 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported from 30 non-endemic countries worldwide. In Canada, as of June 3rd 2022, 58 confirmed cases have been reported nationally, including 52 cases reported from Quebec, 5 from Ontario and 1 from Alberta. The risk of exposure to monkeypox virus is not exclusive to any group or setting. Anyone, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, could get infected and spread the virus if they come into close contact, including intimate sexual contact, with an infected person or their contaminated objects.
Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus to others.
Access more information on monkeypox, including symptoms to be aware of, and ways to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community: Monkeypox: Risks.
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