Why are we getting so sick in Alberta?

With cough, flu, fever and COVID, repeated and prolonged illnesses are common occurrences in Alberta these days, which begs the question: Why are we getting so sick?

If you are wondering why you are getting sick again and again, and for a longer period, then you are not alone. Recent data from the Alberta government’s respiratory dashboard shows a surge in RSV, Influenza and COVID, like never before.

Dr Tehseen Ladha, a pediatrician and assistant professor at the University of Alberta, says the primary reason for these continued illnesses is the combination of low immunizations, a change in weather and infections.

“We’re seeing adults and children having multiple viral infections at once and because COVID is so transmissible, people are getting COVID and then they’re getting RSV or they’re getting COVID and they’re getting influenza,” she told CityNews.

“And when they’re having two viruses at once, they’re of course getting more ill than they would with one virus, and they’re staying ill for a longer period of time.”

The respiratory dashboard from Dec. 24-30 shows the total numbers for this season are more than 10,000 influenza infections with 80 deaths. Almost 13,000 Albertans were infected with COVID-19 and 378 deaths.

And for RSV? There are 2,205 infections so far this season with no data on deaths.

“We’re seeing so many people fall through the cracks and getting too sick before they get the care that they need,” Ladha said.

Calgary pharmacist Brian Jones says the prescriptions for antibiotics are as high as it has ever been, agreeing with Ladha, that though it doesn’t seem to be a priority for Alberta families, getting the COVID, RSV and influenza vaccinations is an important step to avoid getting ill repeatedly.

“We’re seeing a lot more antibiotics this year. Ask any pharmacist — any pharmacy team,” he said.

“I work in a small pharmacy right down in South Calgary and every day people are in the pharmacy or like I can’t believe the amount of prescriptions for antibiotics that we’re doing or the number of phone calls that we’re getting.

“What do I do when strep throat tests are even picking up as well? Right? So all kinds of potentially infectious diseases. are coming through the pharmacy at a much higher rate than previous years.”

Ladha says this increase in illnesses is overburdening the healthcare system which is already working at over capacity… and is calling for everyone to step up in tackling the health crisis.

“We seem to have failed to implement some of the basic learnings of the pandemic,” she said.

“Even just implementing things like improving indoor air quality, using HEPA in classrooms, implementing masks voluntarily in a high respiratory peak season in crowded indoor spaces.”

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