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COVID-19 remains lead respiratory virus in Sask.: report

Leader Post logo Leader Post 2023-02-02 Larissa Kurz
The COVID-19 virus. © Provided by Leader Post The COVID-19 virus.

COVID-19 remains the most prevalent circulating respiratory illness in Saskatchewan, claiming another 18 lives, according to the most recent provincial report from the Ministry of Health.

The bi-weekly community respiratory illness surveillance program (CRISP) report, released on Thursday, covers a reporting period from Jan. 15 to Jan. 31.

Detailing the presence of several respiratory illnesses, the new data shows COVID-19 still tops hospitalizations and cases identified in the province.

Another 18 people have died due to COVID-19 in the two-week reporting period, including two individuals in the 20 to 59 age group.

This brings the total number of deaths so far in 2023 to 36 individuals.

Provincially, there have been 1,858 deaths recorded since the pandemic began in March 2020. Last year was the deadliest on record , with 843 deaths recorded in 2022.

Influenza activity continues to decrease, as cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) remain stable. Of those, 95 were in children aged four and under.

RSV cases remain most prevalent in young children, with 157 cases reported in the past two weeks.

Co-infection cases are on the decline, according to data looking back to Jan. 1. School absenteeism more than doubled from the first two weeks in January, rising to 10.3 per cent.

Weekly visits to emergency departments for respiratory illnesses increased to 21.7 per 1,000, while calls to HealthLine 811 decreased significantly.

University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Dr. Cory Neudorf said previously that increased ER visits and wastewater viral level can be useful as early indicators of a surging wave, as “warning signals.”

COVID-19 cases decreased slightly but remain in a similar range at the previous six weeks, with 515 positive cases identified by lab testing in the last half of January.

Prior data shows 688 cases were identified from Jan. 1-14, and 628 cases from Dec. 18-31.

Test positivity decreased, to 4.4 per cent from 6.9 per cent in the previous report.

Almost half the cases reported are in the 20 to 64 year age group; the remainder in those over the age of 65.

The XXB.1.15 sublineage, coined as Kraken by the public, remains low in presence, only making up 3.5 per cent of detected variants as of Jan. 15. Newer data was not made available.

The subvariant was first detected in Saskatchewan at the end of December and has been described as “more transmissible” than previous variants, including Omicron and BA.5 strains.

Experts do anticipate XBB.1.15 is likely to overtake Omicron as the dominant strain, but cautioned it may take until the end of February, after watching transmission spread in other jurisdictions.

“It would likely take a month or two to show significant gains in the province here, so it’s kind of a waiting game,” Nuedorf said, in an interview earlier in January.

A total of 137 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, since Jan. 15, with eight admitted to intensive care.

Vaccination rates have not budged in residents aged 50 an older, but

Full vaccination — two doses and a booster — rates remain stagnant at just under half the population in Saskatchewan.

The numbers dip even lower when looking at booster dose uptake. Less than half have received more than one booster dose, and only 21.5 per cent of people have received an additional dose in the last six months.

Only 20 per cent of those aged 12 and older have received a bivalent booster dose.

“This pandemic is going to be with us for a while yet, with with multiple waves, and keeping up to date with boosters is a good idea,” Neudorf advised.

He added that “previous infections don’t provide a lot of protection for that long against the new variant.”


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