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Expert says lack of reporting on RSV cases in long-term care homes a concern

Advocates say respiratory illnesses are taking a toll on long-term care facilities, prompting calls for Canadians to exercise caution this holiday season while attending gatherings with senior citizens.

Canada's national seniors' advocacy organization, CanAge, said with the holidays approaching, people need to weary as cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are on the rise.

“Right now older adults and their family members are really trying to figure out what the holidays are going to look like,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge. “With COVID-19 and influenza – particularly influenza A on the rise we now have RSV which has shown up as well and is really making things difficult. So people are trying to understand what they can do to keep safe, and what they can do to keep their loved ones safe as well.”

The prompt for increased precautions comes as long-term care homes in the province have started reporting outbreaks of RSV.

According to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG) public health, a number of long term care homes have recently seen outbreaks of RSV.

Currently, two outbreaks are happening at the Village Of Riverside Glen in two separate units, while another RSV outbreak originally declared on November 26th has now ended at St. Joseph Health Centre.

“RSV is very contagious. It’s another respiratory virus, it’s the same as flu and COVID in terms of how it spreads person to person and so we are seeing that and the way to prevent it is to obviously not visit elderly people when you’re sick and to wear a mask,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, the WDG public health’s top doctor.

Mercer said while there are a number of outbreaks, the severity of cases do not warrant any additional safety measures in long-term care homes. She added restrictive measures could impact the mental well being of seniors.


“In Guelph, in Kitchener-Waterloo area we are seeing a significant rise of RSV in long-term care homes. So not just COVID and influenza which they are tracking better, we are starting to get some better numbers with RSV. But those better numbers in terms of our data are bad news for everybody else because we can see a tripling of RSV even in the last couple of weeks,” said Tamblyn Watts.

Tamblyn Watts said the data right now is poor.

“In many cases if you look up the long term care home in your region it may say that there is an outbreak of COVID or influenza, but is unlikely to say if there is RSV unless there’s been a number of confirmed cases.”

Tamblyn Watts said often long-term care homes will list an outbreak as ‘unknown’ or ‘respiratory illness’ but it is not actually being tested.

“We need to make sure that the Ontario government is really testing and doing their good work in homes to make sure we have excellent numbers for RSV because right now all that we know is that it’s getting worse every day but we don’t know by how much,” said Tamblyn Watts. Top Stories

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