Mask up to protect young and vulnerable says health unit 

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With respiratory illnesses on the rise, the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit is urging Highlanders to wear masks indoors.

“The focus has shifted from COVID-19 to the earlier than normal rise of RSV  [Respiratory syncytial virus] and influenza, where we are seeing higher numbers of seriously ill children than had been expected,” said chief medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking in a Nov. 15 media release. 

“Therefore, I support and strongly recommend wearing your mask at indoor public settings, including schools and childcare centres. It’s our children, the very young and vulnerable, that require our collective action right now.”

COVID-19, influenza, and RSV are contributing to a “surge” in children being admitted to hospitals in recent weeks. The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto announced on Friday it would be limiting surgeries to redeploy staff to urgent care. 

The HKPR said most impacted by influenza and RSV are children too young to mask properly. 

“By wearing a mask at indoor public settings, as well as schools and childcare centres, and if/when respiratory symptoms are noted, we can protect the most vulnerable in our community during this challenging respiratory virus season.”

Bocking also urged Highlanders to get their flu vaccine. 

“Vaccination against influenza remains especially important during this respiratory season,” she said. “Children six months of age and older, pregnant individuals, families and caregivers with young children, healthcare workers and elderly, and those with underlying health conditions should get their flu shot as soon as possible.”

The health unit provided the following tips to limit exposure to respiratory viruses this winter: 

  • Wear a mask at indoor public settings, social settings and in schools and childcare centres
  • Children aged two to five years old should also wear a mask when supervised and if they can tolerate it
  • Staying up to date on vaccinations, including getting your flu shot as soon as possible
  • Screening for respiratory symptoms daily
  • Practice good hand hygiene and regularly clean high-touch surfaces, which is especially important for RSV and flu viruses
  • Stay home if you are sick

Locally, there are many ways to get the flu vaccine:

  • Dozens of pharmacies in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes can provide flu vaccine to anyone two years of age and older. High-dose flu vaccines for people 65 years of age and older are also available at pharmacies. A complete list of local pharmacy locations providing flu vaccines is available at www.hkpr.on.ca.
  • Contact your primary care provider to see about getting the flu vaccine. Children six months to

two years old can only get their flu shot from a doctor, nurse practitioner or local public health unit.