Flu worse than COVID-19 on P.E.I. right now, says Morrison

The isolation requirement for those who test positive for COVID-19 has been lifted, but Chief Public Health Officer says other respiratory viruses are still a concern.

Chief Public Health Officer advises caution as respiratory viruses spread

The influenza virus, as seen under an electron microscope. (U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

The isolation requirement for those who test positive for COVID-19 in Prince Edward Island was lifted on Dec.1, but Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison says other respiratory viruses are still spreading.

"We want Islanders to take all respiratory illnesses seriously," she said. 

"We want to decrease the rate of transmission, not just of COVID."

Morrison said while the number of COVID-19 cases on the Island has been decreasing, cases of RSV and influenza are on the rise. In the last week of November, the positivity rate for influenza tests in the province reached almost 33 per cent, while the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests was around 22 per cent. During that time, there were four new hospitalizations due to influenza.

Morrison said several schools have also reported what she calls "influenza-like illness outbreaks." 

"What that means is greater than 10 per cent absenteeism, often around 18 to 20 per cent absenteeism in some of those schools reporting into us," she said.

Morrison said influenza is "widespread" on the Island, meaning cases have been identified across the province. She also said RSV cases reached a new height on P.E.I. at the end of November.

"Again, just like COVID, it's an indication that it's circulating. It doesn't mean there's only a certain number of people with influenza or RSV or COVID, but it's circulating in the province," she said.

P.E.I.'s COVID-19 isolation order ends

4 months ago
Duration 5:59
Islanders with COVID-19 are no longer required to isolate for 5 days after symptoms begin. However, Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's Chief Public Health Officer, strongly recommends you do stay home when you're sick.

Although the mandatory isolation period has been lifted, the CPHO still strongly recommends "staying home when you're sick, staying up to date with your influenza and COVID vaccinations."

"We're transitioning to how we live with COVID as another virus in our community and we'll be, I think, dealing with COVID, influenza, RSV, enterovirus, adenovirus probably for some time to come," she said. 

Morrison said influenza vaccination rates are high this year, especially in those who are at the highest risk of severe outcomes — people aged 60 and over. So far, more than 79,000 doses of influenza vaccine have been provided to pharmacies, Health P.E.I., public health nursing or physician and nurse practitioner offices.

Reduced hours for COVID-19 testing sites

COVID-19 testing sites will operate on reduced hours beginning Monday, Dec. 5. In a news release Friday, Health P.E.I. said the new schedule reflects a reduced demand for testing due to the availability of rapid antigen tests across the province.

Here is the schedule for Dec. 5-18:

  • O'Leary, 14 MacKinnon Dr. (O'Leary Health Centre):
    Tuesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon.

  • Montague, 14 Rosedale Rd.:
    Monday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon.

  • Slemon Park, 40 Aerospace Blvd.:
    Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon.

  • Charlottetown, 64 Park St.:
    Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, 8 a.m. to noon.
    However, the Tuesday and Thursday clinics at the Park Street location will be eliminated the week of Dec. 12.

With Files from CBC News: Compass


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