Respiratory illnesses on the rise as flu season arrives in P.E.I.

ALISON JENKINS HEALTH REPORTER alison.jenkins @ReporterAlison



SaltWire Network


CHARLOTTETOWN P.E.I., like the rest of the country, is experiencing an increase in respiratory illnesses, says the province's chief public health officer. “That includes COVID, we're also seeing influenza increases and, just like the rest of the country it's above expected levels at this time of year,” said Dr. Heather Morrison when she spoke to SaltWire Network Nov. 16. RSV Nationally, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity is above expected levels for this time of year, according to Health Canada's website. Since the last week of August, the province has diagnosed eight cases of RSV. There were none diagnosed last week, said Morrison. “We haven't seen it as much here yet, but we do expect those numbers to start increasing,” said Morrison. “We are seeing other respiratory viruses that we're testing for.” FLU SEASON Influenza cases are earlier than normal as well. There have been 25 lab-confirmed cases so far this season, with 17 coming in the last week, she said. “And that is just an indication that there's greater influenza activity around,” said Morrison, adding that not everyone with flu symptoms will seek medical attention. There have also been eight hospitalizations due to influenza with four of those eight cases being children 10 or younger. “Flu activity is above expected levels for this time of year,” said Morrison. “We're concerned at the timing of all these respiratory viruses arriving collectively.” That was the trend in the southern hemisphere, as well, with flu season arriving with other viruses like RSV, parainfluenza and enterovirus. “So that is concerning that we'll have a lot of potential individuals on P.E.I. with respiratory illness,” she said. While there aren't vaccines for all seasonal respiratory illnesses – for example, there's no shot to prevent RSV – Morrison said it's important to stay up to date with vaccinations for COVID-19 and influenza. Anyone who is at risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 is encouraged to continue testing for the virus when feeling ill because Paxlovid is available to lessen its impact. Morrison also noted that at the end of November, the mandatory COVID-19 fiveday isolation period is on track to transition to a recommendation to stay home when sick. REDUCE PERSONAL RISK Many of the seasonal illnesses have similar symptoms, said Morrison. “Most viruses are contagious for a number of days, so if you're ill, it's important to stay home until your symptoms start improving – that means no fever and you're starting to feel better,” said Morrison. She also said it's important to wear a mask for a total of 10 days from the onset of symptoms. “And then delay visiting others who may be vulnerable to severe outcomes for that same 10-day period,” said Morrison. The mask mandate will remain in place in P.E.I. for hospitals, long-term care and community care facilities, said Morrison. When out in public, Morrison still urges people to consider their own personal risks when deciding to don a mask. “Especially when we're seeing the high levels of respiratory viruses in circulation.”