As respiratory viruses surge in Manitoba, here’s how you can protect yourself

Respiratory viruses are on the rise in Manitoba and across the country, with influenza, COVID-19 and RSV putting a strain on the health-care system, especially the Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said for the first time in a few years, there is a resurgence of the typical viruses that are seen this time of year, including RSV and influenza A.

“With RSV and influenza A, we’re seeing a significant strain, especially in the Children’s Hospital, with the rise in those infections,” he said in an interview with CTV Morning Live on Monday.

“During the pandemic, we really didn’t see many of those viruses.”

Roussin explained that this year there is an early and severe respiratory virus season as people begin to interact in ways they didn’t during the pandemic.

He added that for the past few years, children have not been exposed to things like RSV, which has caused a resurgence with many getting sick.

To stop the spread of these respiratory viruses, Roussin said people should take an overall approach to prevent infections, including hand-washing, staying home when sick, and ensuring they’re up to date on the vaccines that are available.

“We know masking in public places is useful as well, so we have a number of things at our disposal to really reduce those risks,” he said.

Roussin said the province is not seeing the uptake it would like for the flu vaccine or the COVID-19 bivalent vaccine. He added about 15 per cent of the population has gotten the bivalent dose, as well as the flu shot.

“If we look at say the children under the age of 15, only about six per cent have received a flu shot this year, so we really encourage people to be up to date on the flu shot,” he said.

Roussin recommended that parents speak to their children’s health-care providers, as it’s important for kids six months and older to get the flu shot as there is a significant rise in transmission.

He added that the flu can lead to severe outcomes, especially in those that are young and old.

“Influenza has always been a severe risk. I know pre-pandemic, my first flu season in this position, we had three school-aged children die from influenza,” he said.

“That was just tragic at that time, but it’s something that happens every year and we need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves.”

Manitobans are able to get their COVID-19 booster and flu shot administered during the same visit. Kids five and older can get a booster dose, and those 12 and older can get the bivalent.

– With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagace.

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