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LAYER UP AGAINST ILLNESS

NEW: If you are feeling ill or need urgent care, there are new virtual urgent care clinics available for people who are unable to get a timely appointment with their family doctor or who don’t have one. To schedule a virtual appointment visit Virtual Urgent Care Clinic (hours: 1-9 p.m. daily) or a Paediatric Rapid Access Clinic (hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday to Friday).

Virtual urgent care may be the right choice for you or a family member if:

  • the medical condition/injury is not life threatening
  • you are six months of age or older

For additional information regarding urgent care, walk-in and after-hours clinics in the Barrie area, as well as Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s emergency department and the minor conditions booking portal, use this one-page resource guide.

You can also access free, confidential health advice from the comfort of home 24/7 by visiting Ontario.ca/Health811 to chat live or call 8-1-1 to speak with a healthcare navigator or registered nurse.

We continue to see rising numbers of common colds, COVID-19, seasonal influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in our communities.

It is important to use multiple layers of protection to reduce the risk of becoming ill and protect those closest to us. This is especially important for those who are at higher risk of severe illness, specifically children under five years of age as well as older adults and those with underlying medical conditions. Your best defense against getting sick and protecting others is to:

  • Stay home when you are sick with any respiratory symptoms. 
  • Get vaccinated for COVID-19 and flu as soon as it is available to you.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Consider wearing a tight-fitting, well-constructed mask in indoor public settings, especially if you are at higher risk of severe infection.

If you have symptoms of any respiratory illness:

  • Stay home until you are fever-free (without using fever-reducing medication AND your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours).
  • If you can’t stay home wear a well-fitting mask and avoid non-essential mask-less activities for 10 days from when symptoms started.
  • Don’t visit those at high-risk of severe illness including those in long-term care, retirement homes or in hospital.

 

You are encouraged to stay up to date with your vaccines and to get them as soon as you are able. It is safe and convenient to receive both the COVID-19 and flu vaccine at the same time.

COVID-19 XBB Vaccine

The COVID-19 XBB vaccine is recommended for individuals 6 months and older if it has been 6 months from a previous COVID-19 vaccine dose or known COVID-19 infection (whichever is later) to give a better immune response against currently circulating COVID-19 strains.

Click here to find where to get the COVID-19 vaccine in your area.

Influenza Vaccine

It is important to get a flu vaccine each year as the flu viruses change over time. The flu vaccine is recommended for individuals 6 months of age and older. It is best to get your flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available to you, as it can take up to 2 weeks for the vaccine to take full effect.

Click here to find where to get the influenza vaccine in your area.

COVID-19 continues to circulate, and our greatest concern is for the most vulnerable in our communities; older adults, those with health concerns, and those living in congregate settings.

If you have COVID‑19 symptoms and are at a higher risk of severe illness, you should get tested for COVID‑19 (by molecular or rapid antigen test) and seek care as soon as possible as you may benefit from available COVID‑19 treatment. The oral medication must be taken within the first five days of symptom onset. Some physician offices and pharmacies may be able to provide home rapid antigen test kits.  SMDHU also has limited number of test kits at our offices.

Visit the COVID-19 Community Risk Level for information to help you make better informed decision about how you can best protect yourself and others from transmission and severe illness due to COVID-19.

The influenza or flu season typically runs from late fall to early spring. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. It is very difficult to tell the difference between the flu and other viral or bacterial illnesses based on the symptoms alone. Young children (under 5 years of age) and older adults are at higher risk of severe disease and complications.

To protect yourself and others it is recommended that you get the flu shot early and every year.  

Learn more about Influenza symptoms and treatment.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infects the lungs and airways. It causes colds and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in young infants and toddlers. It can also cause severe illness in the elderly. RSV is circulating this respiratory illness season.

The Ministry of Health has expanded RSV vaccine (Arexvy) availability to all residents 60 years and older in the following groups:

  • Hospital ALC patients
  • Dialysis patients
  • Transplant recipients (solid organ and HSCT)
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness
  • Indigenous individuals

This is in addition to those who were already eligible which included those living in long-term care homes, Elder Care Lodges, and some retirement home residents. The health unit is working directly with these homes to ensure eligible residents have access to this vaccine.

Learn more about RSV symptoms and treatment.

There are simple, proven, and effective layers of protection that help prevent viruses from spreading and when combined they lower the risk of illness impacting our schools, workplaces, and the health care system. These layers of protection include:

  • Stay home when you are sick with any respiratory symptoms.
  • Get vaccinated for COVID-19 and flu as soon as it is available to you.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Consider wearing a tight-fitting, well-constructed mask in indoor public settings, especially anyone at higher risk of severe infection.
  • Optimize indoor ventilation and air quality.
  • Access testing and treatment if you are at high risk of severe infection.
  • Clean and disinfect common surfaces and items.

 

Resources:

How to Protect Yourself and Others from Respiratory Viruses- Public Health Ontario

COVID-19 Community Risk Level

The COVID-19 Community Risk Level is updated each Thursday and can help you determine the best ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 infection and serious illness. Risk of infection and severe illness increases as community, personal and situational risk increases. As risks increase add more layers of protection. The more precautions you take the better you and others around you will be protected.

 

Weekly Respiratory Virus Update

The Weekly Respiratory Virus Update includes data about COVID-19 and influenza activity and is produced weekly for the respiratory virus season to date. The report shares the most recent week's local influenza and COVID-19 activity throughout the respiratory season, providing an overview of circulating respiratory viruses. It is posted each Wednesday for the previous week of local respiratory virus reporting, from Sunday to Saturday (inclusive). 

 

NEW: There are new virtual urgent care clinics available for people who are unable to get a timely appointment with their family doctor or who don’t have one. To schedule a virtual appointment visit Virtual Urgent Care Clinic (hours: 1-9 p.m. daily) or a Paediatric Rapid Access Clinic (hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday to Friday).

Virtual urgent care may be the right choice for you or a family member if:

  • The medical condition/injury is not life threatening.
  • Your child is six months of age or older.

You can also access free, confidential health advice from the comfort of home 24/7 by visiting Ontario.ca/Health811 to chat live or call 8-1-1 to speak with a healthcare navigator or registered nurse.

If you have COVID 19 symptoms and are at a higher risk of severe illness, you should get tested for COVID 19 (by molecular or home rapid antigen test) and seek care as soon as possible as you may benefit from available COVID 19 treatment. The oral medication must be taken within the first five days of symptom onset.  Some physician offices and pharmacies may be able to provide home rapid antigen test kits.  SMDHU also has limited number of test kits at our offices.  You can access antivirals through health care providers, nurse practitioners and pharmacists, with virtual care options available as listed above. 

Although getting the flu or COVID-19 can make you ill, mild symptoms of these illnesses can be managed at home.

The following is a list of how to manage mild symptoms of respiratory illness at home:

  • Stay home and get plenty of rest.
  • Avoid close contact with infants, pregnant women, people over the age of 65, and those with chronic health issues (anyone in these groups can catch viruses easily).
  • Drink lots of fluids (avoid drinks with caffeine).
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
  • Take basic pain or fever relievers but do not give acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin®) to children or teenagers under the age of 18.
  • Treat muscle pain using a hot water bottle or heating pad (apply heat for short periods of time).
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Gargle with a glass of warm salt water or suck on hard candy or lozenges.
  • Use spray or saline drops for a stuffy nose.
  • Keep surfaces clean.
  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue or upper sleeve, not your hands.
  • Dispose of tissues immediately after use.
  • Wash your hands often.

 

Resources:

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