As the school year rapidly approaches and amid escalating COVID-19 cases, it’s crucial to reimpose basic measures aimed at preventing respiratory illnesses, advises one health expert.
Renowned pediatrician and Kidcrew Medical founder, Dr. Dina Kulik, elaborates on strategies to lower the odds of virus transmission, particularly those like COVID-19 and RSV. Her reminders include observing good personal hygiene, ensuring children stay at home when ill, and wearing a mask when potentially infectious.
Dr. Kulik cautioned against attending school or work while sick, as it heightens the likelihood of spreading viruses, especially in indoor environments without the protection of masks. In addition to these precautions, she also recommended spending ample time outdoors, maintaining vigilance against potential contagion, and thorough handwashing.
By the end of August, Health Canada noted a surge in COVID-19 cases, an alarming trend reflected in the increase of hospital beds occupied by coronavirus patients, rising from 1,836 to 2,125 between August 23 and 29.
However, with several Canadian regions discontinuing their regular COVID-19 tracking and reporting, the data could potentially be underestimated. The Canadian COVID-19 Hazard Index estimates that about one in 54 people may be currently infected.
The COVID-19 virus got renewed media attention in August when its heavily mutated variant, BA.2.86, or Pirola, was detected in British Columbia. Containing over 30 mutations in its spike protein, Pirola spurred worries that it could bypass vaccine protection.
Nevertheless, early studies suggest this new variant may not be as perilous as initially assumed. The research indicates that to the immune system, BA.2.86 appears less distinct than feared, presenting a threat but not likely causing a drastic climb in cases like the Omicron variant.
Dr. Kulik acknowledges these findings and the lesser impact of the new variant on immune systems with relief. However, she emphasizes that susceptible individuals, such as children with no recent virus exposure or vaccinations, remain at risk, particularly as they return to school in enclosed spaces with less outdoor activity compared to the summer season.
As Canada continues to grapple with prevalent variant sub-lineages, the federal government is gearing up for the release of new COVID-19 vaccines. Concurrently, Health Canada is scrutinizing proposals from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to revise their COVID-19 vaccines to target the prominent sub-lineages.
With the onset of fall, an increase in RSV cases, known for its seasonal occurrence beginning in the fall, is anticipated. Additionally, Dr. Kulik mentions concerns about simultaneous infections with COVID and RSV or the flu, an issue that has troubled health experts for years.
Preventing the transmission of respiratory viruses in schools largely depends on parents ensuring that their children stay at home when ill, stated Dr. Kulik. She noticed a trend of decreased concern regarding COVID-19 among parents, likely because they feel the virus poses less of a threat if their children have previously been infected.
However, Dr. Kulik reminds us that the impact of COVID-19 extends beyond just the acute stage. The World Health Organization recently reported that nearly 36 million people in Europe may be grappling with persistent health issues due to long COVID, a chronic condition that remains a subject of ongoing medical research.
Despite the relaxed attitudes toward the virus, Dr. Kulik underscored the severity of its potential effects, emphasizing the importance of preventing multiple infections, which could have adverse long-term health implications.
To maintain a robust immune system and health, Kulik also encourages children to get plenty of sleep and eat a balanced diet. After all, a healthy lifestyle is key not just throughout the viral season, but all year round.