Almost every respiratory illness trend in Ottawa is dropping

Two people at a lookout beside the Château Laurier in downtown Ottawa in early 2023. Ottawa Public Health says many trends involving respiratory viruses appear to be dropping. (Christian Patry/CBC - image credit)
Two people at a lookout beside the Château Laurier in downtown Ottawa in early 2023. Ottawa Public Health says many trends involving respiratory viruses appear to be dropping. (Christian Patry/CBC - image credit)

Three major respiratory viruses circulating in Ottawa had less activity on the week ending Jan. 14 than the week before, according to the weekly update from the city's health unit.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) says flu, COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses active in the community — such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — all appear to be less prevalent.

COVID activity appeared to be rising in the previous snapshot, while the flu situation was considered stable.

Levels of influenza in the city's wastewater were moderate and dropping, while test positivity rates were low and dropping as well.

The health unit is monitoring one outbreak, a metric they say is moderate and increasing.

Ottawa's number of confirmed flu cases during the most recent week were again much lower than the pre-pandemic average for that timeframe.

Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health

When it comes to RSV, measurements in wastewater were very high and test positivity was moderate. Both were dropping. There are three respiratory outbreaks that aren't COVID or flu, a number OPH considers moderate and stable.

The outbreak trends were the only ones in the latest report that weren't dropping.

OPH releases more COVID data on Tuesdays and Fridays, but touches on COVID in these weekly updates: its wastewater average, test positivity and number of outbreaks all dropped, but are still considered high or very high.

The health unit said these downward trends are encouraging, but the city's respiratory virus level remains high overall and it's still worthwhile to reduce risks by wearing a mask in public, staying home when sick and getting vaccinated.

Respiratory symptoms and ERs

There's a different provincial report on how many people are going to emergency departments for respiratory problems compared to previous years.

On a four-level scale of seasonal, moderate, elevated and high, Ottawa is still considered moderate and everywhere else in eastern Ontario is now seasonal.

Only the Kingston area was seasonal last Wednesday.

Ottawa's percentage of ER visits for these problems has generally been dropping since the start of December, with a rise at the end of that month. That percentage is dropping across the region.

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health
Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health in the Belleville area does its own weekly flu report and said its activity is now considered low.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) has a new online respiratory illness risk index that's starting by measuring COVID but will soon expand, according to Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis.

The health-care system has been slammed for weeks by the mix of these viruses and has taken unprecedented steps to try to cope, particularly when it comes to kids.

This week has brought a rare bit of good news as eastern Ontario's children's hospital CHEO said its "pressures are now stabilizing" and it can once again treat patients aged 16 and 17.