Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer, November 25, 2022

Speech

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.

November 25 2022 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

Bonjour à toutes et à tous. Nationally, SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses continue to co-circulate as the respiratory virus season progresses in Canada. Since last week's update, respiratory syncytial virus –or RSV– activity has levelled off somewhat, but it is likely to remain elevated for weeks to come. At present, influenza is showing a steep rise in activity, with most surveillance indicators increasing and all trending above expected levels for this time of year. While RSV continues to have a large impact on children, influenza detections are unusually high among children and teenagers. Even though the flu season is just starting, the IMPACT network of 12 paediatric hospitals in Canada has reported a sharp increase in influenza-associated hospitalizations among children aged 16 years or younger. Currently, the weekly number of pediatric hospitalisations reported across the network is at levels typically seen at the peak of the influenza season.

Based on past seasonal trends, we could see ongoing high levels of influenza activity for many weeks to come, affecting all age groups. At the same time, we know there is much we can do to lessen the impact, particularly as we make plans for gathering with loved ones over the holidays. Influenza vaccines are widely available across the country to protect people aged six months or older from developing severe illness due to influenza. We've already got our flu shots for this year --anddata to date indicate that this year's vaccine is a good match against circulating influenza strains, supporting this as an important foundation of protection.

In addition to getting vaccinated to prepare your immune system for a possible encounter with influenza viruses, personal protective measures are also important, as they can reduce your risk of getting infections and spreading them to others. Although not all respiratory viruses spread in precisely the same way, maintaining good habits like frequent handwashing and wearing a respirator or other well-fitted, well-constructed face mask – can help reduce your risk of infection. Likewise, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home if you develop symptoms, are key measures you can take to reduce the risk of spreading infection to others.

As long as influenza, RSV, SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses continue to co-circulate at a high level, there is an increased likelihood that we will encounter one or more of these viruses as we interact with others in schools, workplaces and social settings -- especially indoors and if masks are not being worn. For the time being, it makes sense to dial up our vaccines plus practices to increase our level of protection, particularly in light of our extremely stretched health systems and the large impact on paediatric hospitals.

Although no individual layer of protection is perfect, when used consistently and together, Vaccines Plus layers can provide very good protection against COVID-19, as well as many other respiratory infections 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.

Contacts

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada
613-957-2983
media@hc-sc.gc.ca

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