“Stay home when sick” came before “mask up” as a message to prevent the spread at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that influenza, RSV and other viruses have joined the mix, the original advice is truer than ever, say some Canadian doctors.
The triple threat of respiratory viruses hitting pediatric hospitals across Canada is adding to long-standing pressures on health care systems.
Of course, many workers don’t have the luxury of staying home, leading to renewed calls for paid sick leave.
Earlier this month, Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan announced 10 days paid sick leave for employees in the federally regulated private sector.
Dr. Andrew Boozary, an assistant professor of health policy at the University of Toronto, wants a similar sick leave policy to be available to all Canadians, regardless of socioeconomic status or barriers to health. ‘iniquity.
“We would like to make sure there’s that alignment across the country as well as easy access to paid sick days,” Boozary said in an interview.
US research suggests that paid sick leave is cost effective and improves productivity, he said.
“Going through the pandemic, we’re seeing it now where various respiratory illnesses beyond COVID are causing real strain in the healthcare system,” Boozary said. “If we fail to learn the lessons of the pandemic about the importance of social policy, it’s unclear how sustainable our current health system will be.”
British Columbia seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie said BC researchers have studied factors associated with COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in long-term care homes across the province.
“Unsurprisingly, in most outbreaks, patient type zero, if you will, with COVID was a staff member,” Mackenzie said. Other people did not enter the houses at that time.
“We know that facilities that offered little or no paid sick leave were more likely to have large outbreaks than those that had more robust paid sick leave for their staff.”
Mackenzie welcomed British Columbia’s decision to introduce five paid sick days. Duration of entitlement varies across Canada.
Now that people are going to school, working and socializing again, anything that helps reduce respiratory disease by reducing the chance of a pathogen finding a vulnerable person is important, doctors say.
Watch the runny noses
Dr. Laura Sauvé, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Vancouver, said many circulating viruses are now causing overlapping symptoms.
“In general, we should stay home when we feel like we have a viral illness, so if we have a new runny nose or cough, and especially if we have a fever and feel stiff and uncomfortable.”
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For how long? An observational study last year in the UK suggested that the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 causes symptoms for about seven days in half of those infected, compared to nearly nine days with Delta infections in people vaccinated against COVID-19. .
“Our data indicate a shorter period of illness and potentially infectiousness, which should have an impact on occupational health policy and public health advice,” wrote Dr Tim Spector of King’s College London and his team in The Lancet.
But COVID-19 isn’t the only respiratory illness to consider now.
“I think for a lot of families where they don’t have good childcare options, if the parents have to work, they sometimes feel like they have to bring their kids to school, even with a little cold” , said Sauvé, who also chairs the infectious diseases and immunization committee of the Canadian Pediatric Society.
“It’s not as simple as we sometimes make it.”
Back to School Tips
She also has suggestions on how to know when it’s okay for children to return to school.
“You know, once their fever is gone, their energy is back to normal and they don’t have tons of snot coming out,” she said. “We don’t want people going back to school when they still have to blow their noses every three minutes because that just risks spreading viruses.”
A cough, however, can lingerfor various reasons, doctors say.
“It’s hard to just look at someone who’s coughing and say that person should be wearing a mask,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor at McMaster University and an infectious disease physician.
“But for the individual, you know, if you choose the most productive time to wear a mask in public, it’s probably when you’re coming out of an illness and recovering.”
Chagla suggested that paid sick leave should last at least as long as symptoms persist, but it’s hard to say a specific day given the different estimates of infectious periods for various respiratory viruses such as influenza.
Employers must be consistent in setting an expectation to stay home when sick and provide financial support to help employees do so, Chagla said.
“There’s no way to expect people to stay home if they have to make the decision to lose a significant income.”
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