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Media Release: Board of Health Update – September 2022

Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/ September 7, 2022 – The Hastings Prince Edward Board of Health (BOH) met today. The meeting was conducted in person at the office in Belleville.

New Director of Corporate Services for HPEPH

The BOH bid farewell and thanked Valerie Dunham for her service and dedication to HPEPH. Val has held the position of Director of Corporate Services for the last 10 years, and will be retiring at the end of September. The BOH welcomed David Johnston to the role. David has held the position of Human Resources and Organizational Development Manager at HPEPH for 5 years, which will provide continuity of leadership throughout this transition.

COVID-19 Guidance Changes and Recommendations for Fall 2022

Dr. Ethan Toumishey, MOH and CEO at HPEPH emphasized that there continues to be ongoing COVID-19 activity in the region. He provided an update to the BOH on new COVID-19 guidance. The new guidance focuses on limiting spread of all respiratory illness, such as influenza, RSV, and the common cold, not just COVID-19. Additional precautions recommended if/when an individual is more likely to have COVID-19. In summary, everyone is asked to:

  • Stay home when sick, until you have no fever and your symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if you have gastro-intestinal symptoms). Once feeling better, please
    • Continue to wear a mask when out in public for 10 days from when your symptoms started.
    • Avoid non-essential visits to vulnerable individuals for 10 days from when your symptoms started.
  • Follow this guidance whether you have tested for COVID-19 or not, and whether your test is positive or not.
  • Check your eligibility for COVID-19 treatments and how to get tested and access treatment if you are eligible.
  • Immunocompromised individuals should isolate for 10 days from symptom-onset or a positive test date.
  • Individuals who test positive but are asymptomatic, as well as close contacts who are asymptomatic do NOT have to isolate, but should avoid vulnerable individuals and highest risk settings for 10 days from last exposure.

Staying up to date with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses continues to be your best protection against COVID-19 – especially as we approach the peak season for respiratory illness.

  • Children aged six months to under 5 are now eligible for the pediatric Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which is a slightly modified, lower dose in a two-dose series given eight weeks apart.
  • Individuals 18 and older are eligible for a second booster dose 5 months (140 days) after their first booster.
  • Children aged five to 11 are now eligible for a pediatric COVID-19 booster six months following their most recent dose.
  • Individuals are encouraged to seek the booster dose they are eligible for now, and not delay their vaccination in anticipation of the Bivalent vaccine. It is anticipated that there will be a phased availability/prioritization of the Bivalent vaccine due to limited availability.

As COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses will continue to circulate this fall and winter, it is important that residents continue to practice the skills we have all learned throughout the pandemic to limit the spread of illness and keep our community as safe as possible. As children return to in-person learning, it is critical that families continue to screen their children each day before attending school, and that children/students stay home when sick. Families are also reminded to ensure their children are up to date with their regular childhood vaccines. In the coming months, residents are strongly encouraged to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccine and get vaccinated against influenza once the vaccine is available. 

Sexual Health Program Update

Stephanie McFaul, Clinical Services Program Manager provided an update on HPEPH’s sexual health program. The program aims to prevent and control Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Blood Borne Infections (BBIs).

STI case and contact management, health care provider support, and the provision of sexual health services remained a priority for HPEPH throughout the pandemic. Sexual health staff adapted to offer services in different ways, such as virtual care and in-person services for priority populations.

Prior to the pandemic, the number of reported STIs were steadily increasing in the region. While the overall number of reported STIs went down during the pandemic, it is suspected that this was due to stay at home orders as well as an overall lack of access to routine STI testing services. In the past few years, HPEPH has also experienced local outbreaks of gonorrhea and syphilis.

HPEPH continues to work to address these challenges by monitoring local STIs, providing case and contact management for all reportable STIs, providing support to health care providers, providing public education and support, and offering select appointment-based clinical services for priority populations and individuals who do not have a health care provider  – including both testing and treatment. Recently, HPEPH launched quick test STI clinics which provide low barrier, drop-in testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea.  Anyone who has had unprotected sex and does not currently have symptoms of an STI is encouraged to take advantage of these quick test clinics. More information is available on our recent media release about the quick-test clinics.

Ticks and Lyme Disease in HPEC

The BOH received a presentation about ticks and Lyme disease in HPEC. Ticks become infected with Lyme disease by feeding on an infected animal. Infected ticks can then spread Lyme disease to humans if they are attached for more than 24 hours. Lyme disease is often spread by nymphs, which are incredibly small and difficult to see, reinforcing the importance of checking for ticks and if found, promptly removing them. HPEPH periodically drags for ticks in rural areas and if found, posts warning signs to increase resident awareness. Residents are reminded to remain vigilant to check for ticks, remove them promptly, and seek medical treatment if necessary. If individuals are bitten by a tick and the tick was attached for more than 24 hours, they should speak to a health care provider immediately. If attached for less than 24 hours, individuals are advised to remove the tick and watch for symptoms for 30 days. If any symptoms develop, contact a health care provider immediately. More information about Lyme disease is available at hpePublicHealth.ca.

HPEPH 2021 Annual Report

Shelly Brown, Program Director at HPEPH, presented the 2021 Annual Report, which is now available at hpePublicHealth.ca. 2021 was another challenging year for public health as response to the COVID-19 pandemic continued. In 2021, HPEPH supported the launch of COVID-19 vaccine, several mass immunization clinics in partnership with local health care partners, and expanded access to vaccines as eligibility increased. Enforcement campaigns worked to enforce public health precautions at local settings, and guidance continued to evolve in response to the emergence of various COVID-19 variants. In addition to ongoing COVID-19 response, the team at HPEPH continued to maintain many core public health programs and services. Find key facts and figures in the online report.

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Media contacts

Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist
mhyland@hpeph.ca

Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialist
etubbs@hpeph.ca

About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

We invite community partners and residents to share this Media Release with their respective networks.

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COVID-19 VACCINES IN HPEPH

Appointments for individuals 5+ can be booked through the provincial vaccine booking site, or by calling 1-833-943-3900 from 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week.  

Due to limited supply, HPEPH will initially be prioritizing available bivalent vaccine for residents and workers at identified highest-risk facilities.  Some HPEPH vaccination clinics MAY offer the bivalent vaccine, as availability allows. Vaccine clinics in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties will continue to offer monovalent vaccines (the same mRNA vaccines given as the primary series) for all eligible individuals until a steady supply of the bivalent vaccine is available.

Visit the HPEPH vaccine booking web page for details.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

Symptoms or exposure? Visit www.ontario.ca/exposed for the most up to date information about what to do.

For the most up to date information on current provincial restrictions, visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/public-health-measures.

The Ministry of Health has launched a new toll-free line as an additional resource to help answer questions from the public regarding evolving COVID-19 testing and isolation guidance. The line can be reached at 1-888-777-0730, and is available from 8 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week.