No monkeypox, a little COVID, a lot of water: NWHU

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer
dadam@fortfrances.com

The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) held its final media session of the summer last week, touching on multiple topics including monkeypox.

There were no reported local cases at the time, said Dr. Kit Young Hoon, the NWHU’s medical officer of health.

“Monkeypox spreads much less easily than COVID-19, and spreads when a person is symptomatic,” she said. “Unfortunately, it does have a higher death rate.”

She said those who are at risk for severe disease include children under 12, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people.

Dr. Young Hoon said that any healthcare provider who sees a case of the virus in their patients are to report it to the NWHU. If a local case is observed, this will be communicated.

She said they have sent info to local healthcare providers including posters and handouts for patients. These resources note that common monkeypox symptoms are a rash with blisters, fever, headaches or muscle aches, tiredness, and swollen lymph nodes.

Monkeypox can spread through close physical contact including sexual contact with someone who is symptomatic, Young Hoon told the media. To prevent its spread, she said it’s important that anyone experiencing symptoms isolate and talk to their healthcare provider.

Public Health Ontario is releasing a new routine surveillance report which provides an epidemiological summary of monkeypox in Ontario. It includes case counts broken down by health unit, gender, and age. The report will be published twice a week on their webpage.

COVID-19

In terms of COVID-19, case numbers in most health hubs are low, as are institutional outbreak numbers, said Dr. Young Hoon.

“Overall, there’s been a steady decrease in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 locally,” she said.

Though she did note a significant increase in cases in the Sioux Lookout First Nation health authority’s jurisdiction.

She said it’s important to note that one of the possible reasons for these spikes’ occurrences, is due to differences in testing practices in some First Nation communities.

She said that vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from serious outcomes should you contract COVID-19. For information on eligibility and booking, you can visit the NWHU’s website.

Looking ahead, Young Hoon said virus circulation tends to increase in the fall and winter as people begin to gather more indoors. She said that while COVID-19 spikes are difficult to predict, NWHU is ready.

“The Northwestern Health Unit will be prepared to offer large-scale COVID-19 vaccinations in the fall to protect our community’s most vulnerable,” said Young Hoon.

FLOODING

Recently, COVID has taken a backseat to flooding in the Rainy River District.

“With flooding in homes, I think people do need to be aware of potential risks,” said Young Hoon.

She said to be aware of electrical risks, the growth of mold, and damage of materials like food which could become contaminated.

For some people, where flood waters impact drinking-water wells, she said you should assume that water is contaminated. She said you might need to find a different source of water until the flooding recedes, and can then test the water. She said septic systems may also need to be reviewed once water levels recede.

ROUTINE VACCINES

Turning to children’s regular vaccinations, Young Hoon said there were quite a few school clinics available lately, and they will resume in the fall. If parents wish, they can also book missed vaccines directly with the NWHU over summer.

“It is on our radar, but it’s a two-year backlog that’s developed, so it is going to take us approximately that same amount of time in order to catch up on all of the children’s regular vaccinations,” she said.