With COVID-19 cases on the rise, an AHS medical officer of health takes your questions

Kids are back in school, COVID-19 cases in Alberta are on the rise and we’re heading into cold-and-flu season. Dr. Kathryn Koliaska answers your questions.

When to stay home from school, and what the start of flu season means

A pedestrian wearing a mask walks in downtown Edmonton. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Kids are back in school, COVID-19 cases in Alberta are on the rise and we're heading into cold-and-flu season.

It's a time of uncertainty for many in the province and Dr. Kathryn Koliaska, a medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services, joined CBC Radio's Edmonton AM Thursday to address some frequently asked questions.

When does my kid need to stay home from school? What if they have mild symptoms, like a runny nose?

Even if a child has mild symptoms, like a runny nose, that could be an indication of COVID-19.

"You must stay home if you are sick," Koliaska said. "Even mild symptoms can be an early sign of COVID-19, because not everybody gets severe symptoms.

"The symptoms we are most concerned about include fever, runny nose, a cough, a sore throat, or breathing difficulties or shortness of breath."

Other symptoms, including headache and upset stomach, can also be associated with COVID-19, she said.

What if a family has more than one kid? Does having one sick kid at home mean other symptom-free children also have to stay home from school?

Other kids in the family may be able to go to school, if they are feeling well, said Koliaska.

"If your brother is sick with sniffles, as long as you're feeling well, you can go to school or work," she said.

However, that changes if the sick family member has been told that he or she has been a close contact with someone who had a positive COVID-19 test. In that case, the whole family should remain home.

How do people know when they need a COVID-19 test?

Alberta Health Services has a couple of tools to help answer this question. Koliaska recommended using the Alberta Health Services online self-assessment.

Or, she said, you can call Health Link, at 811, to speak with a nurse.

We get your questions about back to school answered, from one of Alberta's medical officers of health. 11:36

We're heading into flu season. Could you get influenza and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes, it is "theoretically possible," Koliaska said.

"I would say that is probably pretty bad luck, but it could happen. There is the potential that if you get two virus infections at the same time, you could be very sick."

While we don't have a vaccine to protect against COVID-19, the flu shot is the best defence against influenza, she said.

The Edmonton area has the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta, with 821 in the Edmonton zone as of Wednesday. How worried should we be?

It's important to focus on what you, personally, can do amid the high number of COVID-19 cases in the area, said Koliaska.

"It's very basic, but it does work: staying home if you're sick, washing your hands, covering your cough."

Koliaska said people who are in high risk groups, like those with pre-existing respiratory conditions or older adults, may want to be more cautious about their activities in the coming weeks and months.


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