The most recent respiratory illness numbers released in Saskatchewan show a plateau in most sicknesses, but 16 people who tested positive for COVID-19 died in the first two weeks of January.
The bi-weekly Community Respiratory Illness Surveillance Program (CRISP) report shows the majority of the 16 who died were 60 or older. In the previous two week period, there were 10 COVID-19 deaths reported.
“What we’ve seen over the last few months is that we have ongoing deaths from COVID-19,” Dr. Saqib Shahab, the chief medical health officer for the Ministry of Health, said.
“Every death due to an infection is unfortunate. But we are seeing a trend where the deaths are primarily in people who are elderly and frail. COVID-19 deaths are now resembling deaths due to other respiratory illnesses, like influenza.”
The CRISP report shows COVID-19 outbreaks in long term care homes are up, hospitalizations decreased from 119 to 81 per week and test positivity rates have decreased.
Shahab said ultimately, the respiratory season is proceeding as was expected.
“COVID-19 is still at that plateau for many weeks now. It’s not going up or down significantly,” he said.
“Hospitalizations are at a level that doesn’t seem to be trending up too much, but isn’t trending down either.”
Dr. Shahab noted that the Bivalent vaccine, which offers protection against the Omicron variant, is available to those aged five and older.
“If you haven’t had that, you should go and get it as long as it’s been four months since your last COVID-19 vaccine or, if you had an infection, four months since getting that infection,” Dr. Shahab said.
At this point, Shahab said there are no national recommendations for repeating the Bivalent vaccine.
For those who have underlying health issues, are immunocompromised, are unvaccinated or are over 70 with two or more risk factors, Dr. Shahab said anti-viral therapies are encouraged.
“Paxlovid has to be given within five days of getting an infection,” he said.
“For those at high risk of hospitalization and complications, Paxlovid is a treatment that is available. For the rest of us, thankfully now we’ve developed this robust hybrid immunity of vaccinations, boosters or many of us have had Omicron over the past year.”
RESPIRATORY SYNCYTIAL VIRUS
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases have remained consistent over the past four weeks.
Children aged four and under made up 50 per cent of the most recent cases, while another 30 per cent were seniors.
“We get RSV every year,” Dr. Shahab said.
“We didn’t get too much RSV in 2020 because of all the public health measures. We did see RSV in 2021 and that is still continuing.”
Dr. Shahab said the province is seeing a fairly average round of RSV this year, however with more viral testing now than in the past, there many be slightly more cases detected.
“We certainly are finding more RSV than we would in years prior to COVID-19,” Shahab said.
“But as far as I’m aware, it’s not a more severe strain. We’re seeing the usual pressures due to RSV [in hospitals] in children under four.”
The virus typically impacts children four and under, as well as seniors, the most.
Dr. Shahab said for older children and adults, it typically isn’t too much of an issue.
There is currently no vaccine for RSV.
Dr. Shahab said if a young child experiences symptoms including fussy behaviour, no appetite or rapid breathing, they should receive care immediately.
Meanwhile influenza season has faded out, but Dr. Shahab said it’s possible another round could hit in the coming weeks.
“Most years, before COVID-19, we would get a second wave of influenza B in February or March. So we’ll see if we still will get a second influence wave, but certainly the wave we saw starting in November is winding down,” Dr. Shahab said.