Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, infections are up at least 800 percent in New Brunswick, compared to last year, and the province is considering making it a reportable disease as cases continue to surge above expected levels among children across the country.
Forty-five New Brunswickers have tested positive for RSV, as of Nov. 12, based on data from Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Center laboratory in Moncton alone, the latest figures posted by the Public Health Agency of Canada show.
That’s up from five positive cases as of the same time last year, according to the national respiratory virus report.
Of this year’s 45 cases, 14 — more than 30 percent — were during the week ending Nov. 12, known as week 45, up from zero that week in 2021-22.
The rise in RSV, which infects the lungs and respiratory tract, comes as the province faces an increase in the flu, on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, commonly referred to as a triple threat, or tridemic, adding further strain on the health-care system.
Not monitored, communicated to public like COVID, flu
Although the province inputs RSV test data from the Dumont lab into the national surveillance system weekly, it is not a reportable disease in New Brunswick, unlike some other provinces.
That means it is not monitored or communicated to the public in the same way a reportable disease, such as COVID 19 or the flu, with weekly reports, according to Department of Health spokesperson Adam Bowie.
If RSV was a reportable disease under the Public Health Act, “laboratory staff from all regional hospitals would have to submit the result to the regional public health team, where additional information would be collected about each case for analysis,” he said in an emailed statement.
We’ll certainly be looking at that in the near future to see if we should be considering adding that in.– Yves Léger, acting chief medical officer of health
New Brunswick does not have RSV as a reportable disease, “in large part because … it is a very common infection that affects pretty well all children by the age of two,” Dr. Yves Léger, the acting chief medical officer of health, told reporters Friday.
“But that act gets revised regularly and we’ll certainly be looking at that in the near future to see if we should be considering adding that in,” he said.
Adding to the list of diseases and events that are reportable in New Brunswick under the Public Health Act requires a regulatory amendment, said the department spokesperson.
The province recently added monkeypox to the list.
“Where an emergent public health emergency exists, the Public Health Act also provides authority for the minister or chief medical officer of health to make an order declaring a disease a notifiable disease,” Bowie said.
In adults and older, healthy children, RSV symptoms are typically mild and cold-like, such as runny nose, cough and fever.
But the virus can result in severe infection in some people, including infants, older adults, adults with heart or lung disease, or with a weakened immune system.
Reporting requirements vary
The reporting requirements for reportable diseases in New Brunswick vary, depending on how they’re classified.
Part 1 diseases, such as COVID-19, invasive meningococcal disease and measles, for example, must be reported orally within one hour after identification, followed by a written report by the end of the next working day.
Part 2 diseases, such as monkey pox, rabies and pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, must be reported orally as soon as possible within 24 hours after identification, followed by a written report within one week after identification.
Part 3 diseases, such as laboratory-confirmed influenza, HIV/AIDS and Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, must be reported in writing within one week after identification.