Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer, November 10, 2022
November 10 2022|Ottawa, ON|Public Health Agency of Canada
Bonjour à toutes et à tous. There is ongoing regional variation in COVID-19 disease indicators, including weekly case counts and laboratory test positivity. Nevertheless, SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission continues across the country, including with increased growth of emerging Omicron variants BQ1.1 and BF.7. At the same time, other respiratory viruses including respiratory syncytial virus - or RSV - and influenza have increased to above seasonal levels as respiratory virus season gets underway early in Canada. At the national level, RSV activity began to increase several weeks ago, with lab test positivity above expected levels for this time of the year. More recently, influenza activity increased steeply and has already crossed the seasonal threshold of 5% lab test positivity. These surveillance indicators point to the need for stepped up precautions as SARS-CoV-2, influenza and other seasonal respiratory viruses could continue to co-circulate in the weeks ahead. We are likely all aware there are reports of heavy strain on emergency departments in many parts of the country. This includes children's hospitals, where RSV-related admissions have been very high. In addition, over half of recent influenza detections have been in children and teenagers.
Although public health measures, including our individual prevention practices, kept COVID-19 and seasonal respiratory viruses at bay over the past two plus years, this third winter of COVID-19 comes with some cautions. Firstly, with the relaxing of population public health measures and a return to in-person learning, work and social activities, our contact rates have increased. This means more opportunities for exposure to COVID-19 as well as other seasonal respiratory viruses. In addition, although Canadians achieved among the world's highest coverage for a primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, many are beyond a six-month time lapse since the last COVID-19 vaccine dose or omicron infection-- so immunity is falling, leaving us all less protected against severe disease. Last but not least, immunity to other respiratory viruses is lower given less circulation of these viruses over the past two winters as well as the need to update influenza vaccine protection.
So what do we need to do about these concerns? I know we are all tired and we know, only too well, the long list of good habits that can help keep us and others healthier, so let's focus in on the top three recommendations:
- Boost your immunity - if it has been 6 months since your last COVID-19 vaccine dose or booster, get vaccinated with a bivalent omicron-targeting booster. It is also a good time to get your flu shot.
- Protect your respiratory tract from invading viruses - keep up with handwashing and wear a good quality, well-fitting facemask when indoors, especially if you can't avoid being in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces.
- Reduce spread to others - if you have symptoms please stay home! This helps protect us all, including those at high risk of severe respiratory illness such as those who are immunocompromised, as well as infants, young children, pregnant people and older adults. Protecting those who are at highest risk and can't be vaccinated or don't mount strong protection is also key to protecting health system capacity for us all.
To meet the challenges of this fall and winter, let's recommit to not lose the gains we've made as we resume in-person activities. Although no individual layer of protection is perfect, when used consistently and together, Vaccines Plus layers can provide excellent protection against COVID-19 as well as many other infectious diseases we may encounter.
Thank you - Merci - Miigwetch
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 information on monkeypox, including symptoms to be aware of, and ways to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community: Monkeypox: Risks
Public Health Agency of Canada
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