New Brunswick Liberals call for increased respiratory illness reporting

Click to play video: 'Influenza cases on the rise in New Brunswick'
Influenza cases on the rise in New Brunswick
Influenza cases are on the rise in New Brunswick. More people have died of influenza this season than all of last year, and there are more hospitalizations and cases in schools. As Zack Power reports, that’s having an impact across the province. – Dec 6, 2022

With high levels of respiratory illness in New Brunswick, the province urgently needs ramped-up infection reporting and a public update on the state of the health system, the official Opposition’s health critic says.

Liberal Rob McKee said in an interview Wednesday that he’s disappointed by what he considers “radio silence” from the provincial government about current pressures on the health system caused by influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19.

McKee said he’s hearing about the surge of illness from his constituents and he’s seeing it first-hand in his family and Moncton neighbourhood.

“This is affecting a lot of people so many kids are sick. My own kids, kids on their hockey teams,” he said.

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“This is like something we’ve never seen before with the triple threat of viruses going around,” he added.

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The province releases weekly COVID-19 and flu updates, which are reported with a seven-day and 10-day lag, respectively. The most recent reports identified 606 COVID-19 cases between Nov. 27 and Dec. 3 and 513 reported cases of the flu between Nov. 20 and 26.

The province does not share data on respiratory syncytial virus because it’s not a reportable disease under New Brunswick’s Public Health Act. McKee tabled a motion in the legislature Wednesday that would amend the act to include RSV.

McKee said people in his community are concerned about the circulating illnesses and how the increase in patients is affecting hospitals and health clinics.

The Liberal member of the legislature said the province should hold a news conference to share details on the state of New Brunswick’s health system and inform residents how best minimize the risk of getting sick.

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Adam Bowie, a spokesperson for New Brunswick’s Department of Health, said in an email that the province’s acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Yves Leger, would share information with the province “if there were new or important developments.” He added that Leger held a media availability with reporters on Nov. 18.

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McKee said he felt that briefing was insufficient.

“The government and Public Health need to show some leadership right now and speak directly to New Brunswickers through a public, livestreamed press conference followed by questions from the media,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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