Get the shot against respiratory illnesses, C-K top doc urges


By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Winter’s wave of respiratory illness is bearing down across Ontario, and Chatham-Kent is no exception.

To date, according to data from CK Public Health, five lives have been lost to Covid in the 2023-24 season, with 466 laboratory-confirmed cases of the illness. There have also been six confirmed cases of influenza, but no reported deaths from the affliction.

But the numbers recorded by the health unit may not tell the whole tale, as many sick people aren’t officially diagnosed.

Conversely, vaccination rates for both influenza and Covid in C-K are hovering around 13 per cent locally – much lower than the 80 per cent vaccine uptake witnessed early on in the pandemic.

C-K acting medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai said people need to take a proactive approach against respiratory illness, and the first line of defense is vaccination.

“We have to mitigate the burden of the disease,” the physician said in a recent interview, likening it to reducing lung cancer rates by getting people to stop smoking.

“People need to get vaccinated,” he said. “We’re not where we want to be.”

Plus, he said, those who choose the shot are less likely to be hit hard with severe illness, or to suffer long-term effects of covid.

As for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), older people over age 60 in long-term care or retirement homes face the highest risk. The at-risk group also includes some children, and others who health is comprised, such as people with heart disease and COPD.

Not everyone is eligible for the RSV vaccine, and Nesathurai advised people to check with their primary health-care provider to find out if they are eligible.

The fact remains, he added, is “Covid kills people” and “flu kills people,” with an estimated 6,000 Canadians losing their lives to the pneumonia and influenza in 2022.

At the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, health-care workers are currently dealing with what’s normally expected at this time of year.

As of last week, CKHA communications official Fannie Vavoulis said the hospital had nine cases of Covid, one case of influenza and two of RSV.

“These numbers have been consistent over the last few weeks at CKHA,” Vavoulis explained. “Overall, our occupancy is where we expect it to be at this time of year for the ICU and we are seeing patients in our critical care unit with COVID as the diagnosis for admission, which is the recent trend over the past few weeks.”

The seasonal care mobile trailer unit – a collaboration between CKHA and CK EMS – has seen between 15 to 30 patients a day in the last month since it opened.

Based on the mobile clinic volumes, Vavoulis said the hospital’s emergency department is seeing between 15 to 20 per cent fewer patients requiring treatment.


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