Doctors are foreseeing that the impact of COVID-19 and cold and flu season could bring another host of health-care challenges when the cold weather sets in.
Dr. Sandy Buchman, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said the intermingling of occasional diseases and a likely second influx of the novel coronavirus could have gradually expanding influences over the medical system and beyond.
“That’s going to be a major challenge for family physicians to sort out,” said Buchman.
“It is safe to say that we will have the option to oversee and get the sort of help and reinforcement that is required?”
Buchman said there are critical similarities between the manifestations of COVID-19 and those of a cold or flu, including coughing, congestion and body aches.
This diagnostic overlap can make it difficult for doctors to distinguish the sniffles from the deadly disease, he said, and the only way to know for sure is through testing.
But Buchman worries that testing centres could be overloaded this winter between a likely surge in false alarms and COVID-19 cases.
“We do have a large (testing) capacity we have built up, but we really have to get it going,” said Buchman.
“Right now, we’re in a fairly good space, but that can change on a dime.”
Primary-care doctors will need the support of public health authorities to guide patients about how to proceed if they have COVID-19 symptoms, Buchman said.
For example, as school resumes this fall, he said it’s unclear whether classes should be closed while a coughing student waits on their COVID-19 test results.
Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam told reporters last week that authorities are bolstering their testing and contact tracing capacities as cold and flu season draws near.
Tam said the agency is helping hospitals prepare for an influx of patients with the flu and other respiratory illness, which could burden emergency rooms, acute-care units and the availability of beds.
She said flu prevention will be key to avoid this strain on resources, and many provinces are mounting a push for people to get vaccinated.
Photo credit: AP Photo/LM Otero, File
News source: The Canadian Press