September 21, 2023
Public well being perspective: A Q&A with Dr. Chris Sikora

The College of Alberta is conscious of the early rise in seasonal infections in Alberta this yr. Our aim is to maintain our group as wholesome as attainable all through exams, the vacation season and into the brand new yr.

We spoke with Dr. Chris Sikora, Edmonton Zone Lead Medical Officer of Well being with Alberta Well being Companies and member of the U of A’s Public Well being Response Workforce, for extra perception on the general public well being state of affairs in our province and steps we will take to maintain wholesome.

You’re the Medical Officer of Well being with Alberta Well being Companies for the Edmonton Zone, and also you’re additionally a member of the U of A’s Public Well being Response Workforce. Are you able to share an outline of what every of those roles entail?

At Alberta Well being Companies, we assist enhance the well being of the general public by means of our work in
environmental well being, emergency catastrophe administration, illness surveillance, well being promotion and communicable illness prevention. We won’t do all of this on our personal, so we work with many organizations, municipalities and group teams, such because the U of A, to assist improve consciousness of how individuals will help defend themselves and hold wholesome.

We have had the pleasure of working with colleagues on the U of A Public Well being Response Workforce in serving to reply to employees, pupil and customer security in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID-19 transitions to being an endemic illness, we have began to work on how individuals can defend themselves and hold wholesome over the respiratory virus season, but in addition throughout regular instances as effectively.

With it being influenza season, and with COVID-19 and different respiratory diseases circulating, what steps ought to U of A group members take to remain wholesome?

Thankfully, there are numerous issues we will do to assist hold wholesome and secure over the respiratory virus season, and we have carried out a lot of them fairly effectively over the previous few years.

Washing your palms with cleaning soap and water, or utilizing alcohol-based hand sanitizers, works very effectively at stopping the unfold of an infection. Quite a lot of these viruses can stay on surfaces for a protracted time period, so cleansing excessive contact surfaces is essential, and one thing all of us can do.

You must keep house while you’re sick. We’ve all gotten used to this over the past a number of years, and we have now to proceed to remain house if we’re unwell. The college has extra info and numerous assets accessible for you must you’ll want to keep house.

Immunization can also be inspired. Staying updated with COVID-19 immunizations does assist defend in opposition to hospitalization, but it surely’s essential to remain updated on different vaccines like influenza as effectively. You will need to word that influenza immunization must be accomplished yearly.

One thing we will do to scale back transmission, and one thing that has develop into rather more commonplace, is to put on a face masks. Once we discuss, cough and sneeze we produce droplets that may attain others. Face masks assist interrupt this transmission and forestall droplets from others reaching your nostril and mouth. In addition they stop you from touching your nostril and mouth, lowering transmission by means of contact. Well being Canada continues to advocate masks in indoor public locations and has definitions on what constitutes a medical face masks.

Additional, caring for your well being by having a nutritious diet filled with vegatables and fruits, staying bodily energetic and prioritizing your psychological well being helps guarantee you’ll be able to battle off an an infection.

What’s the distinction between these measures and COVID-19 measures? Why is carrying a masks in indoor areas nonetheless essential?

There’s not numerous distinction — it’s all associated to creating certain you’re as wholesome as you might be and that your immune system is primed and prepared, and taking steps to interrupt transmission.

We’ve got an entire host of respiratory viruses circulating in and round our communities. Whereas their signs could also be related — all of them largely trigger fever, cough, runny nostril, aches and pains — they have an effect on teams in another way. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) often severely impacts those that are very younger, whereas COVID-19 extra adversely impacts those that are older or have a number of medical comorbidities. Influenza usually considerably impacts these beneath 5 years previous, the aged and people with a number of medical comorbidities, but in addition those that are pregnant.

Carrying a masks helps defend you and people round you. Our motion patterns have modified previously yr and a half, and now many people are interacting with many various individuals in a number of school rooms and work environments every single day. A masks is one additional factor that may be simply accomplished to assist scale back the likelihood of transmission throughout these interactions.

How does the U of A decide its private well being measures?

The U of A’s public well being and security measures are drawn from suggestions from many public well being organizations. AHS helps many organizations, together with the U of A, in growing their measures by offering general steering and course round what traditional public well being measures can be really helpful.

As a member of the U of A’s Public Well being Response Workforce, I help the workforce in monitoring the general public well being state of affairs in our communities, together with most lately the early rise in seasonal infections in Alberta, and guaranteeing it has the very best scientific and medical info for making selections and offering steering for the U of A group.

What’s the outlook for influenza season and early 2023? Will the general public well being state of affairs in our province be bettering?

It is a very worrying time for our group and the well being care system, however the very low charges of influenza in the course of the years of COVID-19 exhibits that taking steps similar to practising good hygiene, staying house when sick, getting vaccinated and carrying face masks might be very efficient.

Not solely does it communicate to our collective talents to scale back transmission occasions, it exhibits how essential our private actions are. The alternatives we make as workers, college students, mother and father, lecturers and residents affect these round us.

The extra we’re capable of assist scale back transmission occasions general, the much less of an affect the respiratory virus season could have on the system and our group.

We perceive that present flu vaccination ranges in Alberta are comparatively low. What are the advantages to receiving the seasonal flu vaccine and the place can people go to be vaccinated?

Making the selection to be immunized in opposition to influenza builds your immunity in order that in case you are introduced with the virus, you have got a great likelihood of preventing it rapidly. It makes your life rather a lot simpler and helps scale back hospitalizations.

Everybody residing in Alberta who’s over the age of six months is eligible to obtain free influenza immunization, together with worldwide college students. You may all the time e book by means of the Alberta Vaccine Reserving System. Many workplaces supply influenza immunization, and lots of pharmacies have walk-in appointments, though it is good apply to name forward of time to ensure they’ve product onsite and may fit your needs into their schedule.

What’s the information and analysis that the Medical Officer of Well being depends on to make public well being suggestions?

We depend on an entire host of various info and take a holistic method to what’s greatest apply and what’s truly achievable inside jurisdictions and organizations to have the ability to assist hold individuals wholesome and secure.

One of many greatest sources is monitoring well being information, the testing we have now accessible and hospital utilization in close to actual time to see what the present standing is. We additionally look to assets from different jurisdictions in Canada such because the Authorities of Canada, Well being Canada and Public Well being Company of Canada. As a result of influenza appears to journey between the northern and southern hemispheres, sometimes we glance to see what the expertise of influenza was like in Australia.

Suggestions are sometimes based mostly on what we all know works for lowering transmission, and we depend on quite a few scientific our bodies for this. We have labored intently with the scientific advisory group right here in Alberta round COVID-19 suggestions, however we have additionally relied upon the Nationwide Collaborating Centre for Public Well being and scientific advisory tables from different provinces for suggestions and recommendation on greatest apply. We have additionally labored with trade organizations round greatest apply associated to issues like indoor air flow methods.

The place can I am going for extra info?

You could find extra details about Alberta’s public well being measures on the Authorities of Alberta’s web site. The U of A additionally has its really helpful private well being measures (the HealthyU Necessities) accessible on-line.

These diseases could make you very sick, so should you want medical consideration, please search it. In case you are involved that you’re critically in poor health, you’ll be able to go to the closest emergency division or name 911. For extra info or help with signs you could be experiencing, talking with your loved ones doctor is useful. You can too go to or entry Alberta Well being Hyperlink by calling 811 to talk with a health-care skilled who will help decide one of the best care in your state of affairs.

Dr. Chris Sikora, Edmonton Zone Lead Medical Officer of Health, Alberta Health Services and member of the U of A’s Public Health Response Team

About Chris

Dr. Chris Sikora is a Public Well being Doctor based mostly in Edmonton, Alberta. He’s presently the Edmonton Zone Lead Medical Officer of Well being (Public Well being) and Affiliate Zone Medical Director for Major Care, Public Well being & Dependancy and Psychological Well being for Alberta Well being Companies. Chris is an Affiliate Scientific Professor on the College of Alberta within the Division of Drugs, Division of Preventive Drugs, an adjunct school member with the College of Alberta College of Public Well being and, as of summer season 2022, a member of the U of A’s Public Well being Response Workforce who usually supplies insights on public well being developments for campus communities.

Dr. Sikora’s work and analysis focuses on the ideas and utility of proof & surveillance for enchancment in communicable illness management, immunization applications, and environmental well being to assist and enhance native and provincial public well being.

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