While respiratory illnesses that overwhelmed Ontario hospitals for the past few months are slowly becoming less prevalent, a new COVID-19 subvariant has the province's top doctor urging residents to remain vigilant.
Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore issued a statement Thursday about the level of respiratory virus currently circulating across the province. It is the first time in several weeks he has addressed the topic.
Moore stated that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), flu and COVID activity is dropping.
"RSV trends are beginning to stabilize and decline, and after the annual 12-week flu season, the number of cases of flu peaked at the end of November, case rates continue to decline, and the impact on our communities, hospitals and intensive care units is improving," said Moore.
He credited Ontarians who followed public health advice aimed at limiting the spread over the holidays into the new year.
Where numbers are climbing is with the Omicron offshoot XBB.1.5. Moore said the subvariant known as "Kraken" has appeared in many jurisdictions in Ontario.
"XBB.1.5 has not been associated with a change in severity of illness, but due to its increased transmissibility, more individuals may get infected as it becomes the main variant in Ontario," said Moore. "I continue to strongly recommend that everyone stays up to date with their vaccinations as it remains our best defence against COVID-19 and its variants, especially for those at increased risk of severe infection and for anyone who has not received a booster or been infected in the past six months."
Other measures that can be taken include staying home when sick, frequent hand washing, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and wearing a face covering in crowded indoor public spaces.
"We have the tools we need to reduce the spread of respiratory illness in our communities, and I am grateful to Ontarians for continuing to utilize them. These important choices help preserve our hospital capacity to ensure care is always available for those who need it," said Moore.
Hospitals across the province have resumed non-urgent surgeries that were cancelled late last year due to the unprecedented increase of kids being admitted with respiratory viruses. At their peak, RSV and flu cases saw hospital capacities exceed their maximums, forcing officials to redeploy staff to crowded emergency departments and intensive care units.