MONTREAL — Quebec's public health director warned December will be a difficult month as he delivered mixed news Monday on a trio of respiratory viruses hitting the province's hospitals hard — COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
Asked to compare between last December, when the Omicron variant of COVID-19 tore through province, and the current situation with those three viruses, Dr. Luc Boileau said this month is going to be difficult.
"This one is going to be tough," Boileau told reporters in Montreal.
"It's tough right now and we're seeing situations that are difficult in pediatric wards and emergency rooms, but it's going to be a tough ride for the hospitals (and) it's already the case."
On the positive side, Boileau said RSV cases appear to have peaked in the province and cases are trending downward, although it's not necessarily reflected in pediatric hospitalizations yet, but "it's reassuring for us and the pediatric units that have to deal with it."
However, influenza arrived earlier than usual and health officials expect it will remain high through December.
"It came in the middle of November, it's now early December and it's still moving up," Boileau said. "It's at least as high as is normally the case in January, so we're quite concerned that it is moving up."
And Boileau calls "worrisome" the rising number of COVID-19 cases, a trend expected to continue in the coming weeks, with the more transmissible BQ. 1.1 variant that is causing cases to rise worldwide.
With the season of holiday office parties and family gatherings here, Boileau is calling for people to use common sense and not attend if they are ill or have symptoms.
Parents with sick children are encouraged to keep them at home. If they go back to school and are still exhibiting symptoms, they should wear a mask in the short term. The province has ruled out brining back mandatory masks in schools.
Authorities are also urging Quebecers to get vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19, follow basic hygiene like handwashing, and to wear masks in crowded, indoor public spaces.
"We still suggest everyone be careful and to wear a mask when it's crowded," Boileau said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press