British Columbia

Viruses like flu could complicate COVID-19 fight, top doctor says, as B.C. prepares for potential fall 'surge'

B.C. health officials are urging the public to stay vigilant and to "stamp out" COVID-19 before another potential wave of infections later this year hits the province at the same time as seasonal influenza.

Public urged to follow health orders to 'stamp out' illness before seasonal viruses appear later in year

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at the daily COVID-19 briefing on April 22. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

B.C. health officials are urging the public to stay vigilant and to "stamp out" COVID-19 before another potential wave of infections later this year hits the province at the same time as seasonal influenza.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province is preparing for future spikes in case numbers, saying there's "very much a potential of a surge to come in the fall."

Henry was responding to a question about preparations in the U.S., where Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a "second wave" of cases could be "more difficult and potentially complicated because we're going to have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time." 

Redfield said Wednesday that the combination would put even greater strain on the nation's health-care system than the initial outbreak.

Echoing those concerns, Henry said COVID-19 may become harder to identify when other viruses — such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus that can cause cold-like symptoms — become more widespread.

"Once we have influenza complicating things, and the other respiratory viruses that we see, it's much more challenging to detect which one is influenza, which one is RSV ... which one is COVID-19," she said.

She said health researchers don't know yet if there is a seasonality to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, so monitoring the number of cases is important.

"That's one of the things we are working very hard to have in place, the surveillance that we need, the testing that we need, the contact tracing in our community that we need," Henry said.

She said it's important for people to do as much as possible now to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following health orders such as physical distancing.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

With a file from Reuters

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