Special Statement from Dr. Vera Etches - November 2022

Trends across the country indicate a very active respiratory illness season is upon us and Ottawa is no exception. We know that countries in the southern hemisphere, like Australia, experienced a heightened and early influenza (flu) season. We confirmed our first influenza outbreak here in Ottawa about a month earlier than usual and lab-confirmed cases and per cent positivity are now rising. Ottawa is seeing increasing respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity, particularly among children, and CHEO has flagged unprecedented volumes of infants and children with respiratory symptoms from various viruses. We are also seeing more COVID-19 transmission in the community as we enter the colder months. We predict that this respiratory season will be challenging.

The last three years have been incredibly difficult for everyone. While we have learned and adapted in many ways, our work is not over.

The good news is that vaccines are readily available in our community for both COVID-19 and flu.

The best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and the health care system is to stay up to date on all your vaccinations. This winter will be hard on our community as several respiratory viruses will be circulating simultaneously creating stressors on our community and our health care system.

Our collective efforts can make a difference. I urge everyone to get their fall COVID-19 booster and their flu vaccine. Reach out and help a friend, a neighbour or a loved one get theirs.

Effective November 1, 2022, individuals six months and older are eligible for the flu vaccine. Anyone aged two and over can receive their annual flu vaccine at one of more than 250 pharmacies across Ottawa.

This week, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) launched community flu clinics for children aged six months to two years old and their household members as well as newcomers and individuals without OHIP who are unable to access a flu vaccine through a primary care provider or pharmacy. These individuals are encouraged to book an appointment at an OPH flu vaccine clinic.

Through our ongoing community engagement work, OPH is also providing the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs for individuals who may be facing additional barriers.  

OPH and pharmacies continue to offer the COVID-19 vaccine including bivalent COVID-19 boosters, a vaccine that helps protect against circulating variants of COVID-19 and prevents against severe illness, complications and hospitalizations.

Additional actions you and your family can take to protect yourselves today, and throughout this respiratory illness season are:

  • Wash your hands often, especially after being in contact with others or being in a shared/public space
  • Cover your cough - cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or into a tissue that you dispose of
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands to prevent germs from entering your system
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces like doorknobs and light switches
  • Stay home when you’re sick – do not attend work, school or childcare or high-risk settings like long term care or retirement homes and hospitals
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Choose to gather with people outside or in well-ventilated spaces
  • Wear a mask to protect against exposure to airborne and respiratory viruses in crowded and indoor spaces, and especially when you are sick or recovering from being sick
  • Make a plan in the event you or your child/children have to stay home from work, school or daycare

Should you become sick with a respiratory illness, take care and rest. Monitor your symptoms, seek immediate care – call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room – if you experience:

  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath (like trouble finishing a sentence or trouble catching your breath)
  • Pale, grey, or blue-coloured skin, lips or nail beds
  • Trouble staying awake or difficult to wake
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.

We have a certain amount of control. The precautions we took individually to get through previous waves of COVID-19 can and have worked. Now is the time to implement these practices back into your daily routine to keep yourself, your family and those around you healthy.

Merci. Thank you. Meegwetch.

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