Flu virus trends heading in wrong direction as calendar turns

People make their way along the edge of the Rideau Canal near the Château Laurier in Ottawa last month. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
People make their way along the edge of the Rideau Canal near the Château Laurier in Ottawa last month. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Ottawa's flu trends stopped improving in the final week of 2022 while COVID-19 and other respiratory virus activity rose again, according to the weekly update from the city's health unit.

In its previous two reports, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) had considered the overall flu situation to be getting better and the other viruses to be stable.

But as of the week ending Dec. 31, OPH says levels of flu virus in the city's wastewater are high while test positivity rates are moderate. The health unit is monitoring two outbreaks, a number it considers to be low.

Ottawa's number of confirmed flu cases during the week of Dec. 18 to 24 — the most recent week that data was publicly available — remains higher than the pre-pandemic average.

However, the weekly totals are no longer well above the usual pre-pandemic peak that occurs later in winter.

A smaller percentage of flu tests also came back positive that week, compared to the pre-pandemic weekly average.

Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health

When it comes to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), measurements in wastewater are very high and test positivity is high.

OPH also touches on COVID in these weekly updates: its activity is increasing, the wastewater average is very high, the test positivity is high and number of outbreaks is moderate.

According to OPH, there's just one active respiratory outbreak that's not flu or COVID. The health unit releases more COVID data on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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 in the elevated category. Everywhere else is moderate.

That's an improvement for Renfrew County's situation, compared to the previous week.

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

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.