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High level of respiratory viruses in Ottawa, and COVID keeps rising

People make their way around the Rideau Centre in Ottawa late last month. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)
People make their way around the Rideau Centre in Ottawa late last month. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)

COVID-19 was the only one of three highlighted respiratory problems to see its levels rise in Ottawa, according to the weekly update from the city's health unit.

As of the week ending Jan. 7, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) says flu activity was stable for the second straight week and other respiratory virus activity, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), is decreasing after a rise the previous week.

Flu trends were mixed: levels of the virus in the city's wastewater were very high and rising, while test positivity rates were moderate and dropping. The health unit is monitoring two outbreaks, a stable number it considers low.

Ottawa's number of confirmed flu cases in the most recent two weeks were lower than the pre-pandemic average for that timeframe. That follows nine weeks where cases were reported higher than that average.

Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health

When it comes to RSV, measurements in wastewater were very high and test positivity was high. Both are dropping, though.

OPH releases more COVID data on Tuesdays and Fridays, but touches on COVID in these weekly updates: its activity was increasing and the wastewater average, test positivity and number of outbreaks were all considered very high.

Wastewater and the test average were increasing, while outbreaks were stable.

Overall, it said there is still a high level of respiratory viruses being spread in the capital, including a concerning rise in COVID.

"I think we still have some respiratory season to get through and taking a cautious approach again will be really helpful," Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Thursday.

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, the Kingston area is in the seasonal category. Everywhere else is moderate. That's an improvement for both Ottawa and the Kingston area.

Ottawa's percentage of ER visits for these problems has generally been dropping since the start of December,

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 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.

There's national concern about COVID and RSV as flu season seems to be winding down.