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When Breathing Makes You Sick.

Authors:

Lyne Filiatrault, retired emergency physician, Protect our Province BC member
Irene Corman, Associate Superintendent of Schools (former), Greater Victoria
Roger Haskett, Coordinator, Vancouver DPAC Health & Safety Working Group
Chris Hilliker, parent
Andrea Roszmann, BC School Covid Tracker

Since the start of the pandemic…

The BC School Covid Tracker initiative, run by two dedicated moms, has been alerting families and educators of Covid exposures in schools and pre-schools for close to 4 years now. Their work has allowed thousands of families to make decisions and choices keeping their children and family safer from infection. Periodically, some of their 55,0000 followers share their stories. 

Episode 85, January 29, 2024 of BC School Covid Tracker Our Voices Series:

My teenager would love to know that they're not alone. They have gone from a vibrant young person to a young adult who feels useless, stupid and like they have no future. They are stuck in bed in a dark room probably 60% of the time dealing with migraines that don’t just last for hours but days. Muscle aches, fatigue, brain fog, unable to retain information and depression due to all of the above have severely impacted their final years at school. They will now be attending halftime for the next semester and hopefully that helps but they don’t see a future for themself! I’m so sad for them, they are so sad. I don’t know how to help them. Their pediatrician doesn’t know how to help so we’re stuck.

It’s not just students who are missing. Staff are as well.

Episode 86, January 30, 2024 of BC School Covid Tracker Our Voices Series: 

Two years ago I was an energetic, school employee. I had my shots, wore my mask everywhere.

January 2022 I was exposed at my job to a student who was sent to school with a sore throat. (they were told by their parents not to tell us, they did finally later that day). That exposure infected half the class, and myself. I was the only one who never got better.

I am a Covid Long Hauler.

As one BC mom posted on twitter on February 4, 2024,

My son gets his 7th teacher since Sept on Monday. 6th since Jan 6.

The BC Center for Disease Control counts and tracks the visits over the year to family doctors and nurse practitioners for symptomatic acute respiratory infections.

This data is not shared with the public. Through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request (File HTH-2024-40507), Protect our Province BC was recently provided the numbers, shown in the graphs below.

Between August 28, 2022 and August 20, 2023 there were almost 2 million, or to be exact, 1,747,186 primary care visits for symptomatic acute respiratory infections. No wonder health care in BC is overwhelmed. 

These numbers don’t include all those who did not seek medical care, nor do they provide a full picture of the severe and longer term health outcomes that may have followed.

Almost 2 million people in BC felt ill enough with cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever and trouble breathing that they sought help. This is a massive number!

Last year‘s numbers were not exceptional according to the BCCDC’s own historic data

So far this year, from August 27 2023 to January 28 2024, there were 868,891 primary care visits for acute respiratory infections. There are seven more months of data to tally. 

These visits strain an already stretched health care system, a system that is now failing to keep up with the demand. A viral infection ripples through individuals, families, and communities. Parents or guardians miss work, and can get infected themselves looking after a sick child or a senior relative. Parents cannot afford to miss work, faced with their family’s hunger or bills to pay, some will send their child to school sick, infecting other children and educators. The ripple spreads, a ripple that could be prevented. 

“This is an airborne virus.” I regret that we didn't do [say] this much, much earlier.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, outgoing chief scientist at the World Health Organization, 2022

The WHO has finally co-produced a report with CERN physicists that describes how respiratory infections are passed from person to person when indoors –through the air.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, floats in the air and accumulates indoors in poorly ventilated, enclosed and crowded spaces, as do measles, Tuberculosis, chickenpox, RSV and influenza. The pandemic has upended our understanding of how respiratory viruses spread, leading to a much greater appreciation of the central role aerosols play.  

“Once we know how the virus spreads, we can do something about it.”- Professor Kim Prather, Professor Climate Sciences, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry

We filter our water. Why don’t we filter the indoor air?

We drink 2 liters of water a day.

We expect government* to provide water that is safe to drink.

We make sure that the water coming from the tap does not carry disease.

We filter our water.

We breathe 11,000 liters of air a day, much of that in poorly ventilated, enclosed and crowded settings, breathing the emissions from the lungs of others.

Air can carry fine smoke particles that cause disease such as asthma, heart disease and cancer. It can carry diseases that can kill or leave us, or our children, disastrously damaged. Why doesn’t the government do simple, inexpensive things that would make us safer?

Cigarette smoke illustrates how disease can spread through the air. You can see the wisps of smoke moving down a hall and maybe even smell the smoke on another floor. Smoke is an aerosol. Fine particles float in the air. If you smell it that means you are breathing in the particles. If you open windows the smoke can clear out. If you filter the air, the particles can be trapped, and the air cleaned.  

We are breathing in dirty indoor air. It’s affecting everyone. Some people just don’t know it yet.

Cleaning indoor air will reduce the number of visits made for respiratory issues and for the serious aftermath that can occur. The time is now.

* There are multiple indigenous communities living with water that is neither abundant nor filtered. This too, must be addressed now.

Archived Briefings from Protect Our Province BC

In honor of February being Heart Month, cardiologist Dr. Leslie Kasza joined Protect our Province BC’s Dr. Susan Kuo for a discussion on COVID-19’s impact on heart health and how you can reduce your risk. Don’t be fooled into thinking it won’t happen to you because you are _________, fill in the blank: young, healthy vaccinated and/or you only had a mild infection, etc.
A Protect Our Province BC panel discussion about how we as a community, can pull together to create a safer learning environment for kids when school starts again in September! We can avoid another ‘tripledemic’ if we work together! Ready for Fall 2023? Briefing video:
“COVID-19 vaccination is safe during pregnancy and may protect newborns from infection, especially if vaccines are given in the second or third trimester. This is similar to what we are already doing with other maternal vaccines, including TDaP and seasonal influenza.” – Dr. Eastabrook

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