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'Mixed pathogen' outbreak declared at Calgary hospital: memo

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An internal memo sent to employees at a Calgary hospital informed them of a "mixed pathogen" outbreak inside a unit.

The notice, sent to staff at the Peter Lougheed Centre on Nov. 30, was posted on X and stated there were four positive cases of influenza-A in patients in the hospital's unit 51.

According to the memo, all of these cases were acquired within the hospital setting.

The letter also informs staff must be vaccinated against influenza or receiving Tamiflu in order to work in the unit.

All workers who may have been exposed will be contacted by workplace health and safety personnel, it continues.

"We appreciate this may be stressful and worrisome for staff," the letter says. "If you are concerned or have any questions related to this work, please call (Workplace Health and Safety) or reach out to your unit manager."

While the official letter states there are multiple pathogens making patients and workers sick at the hospital, there is no indication about what other viruses are present.

However, a notice about COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta acute care facilities states there are 18 patients sick with the virus in connection with an outbreak in a unit declared on Nov. 16.

Four health-care workers have also tested positive with COVID-19 in the outbreak.

Alberta Health Services (AHS), in a statement to CTV News on Friday, confirmed the unit's outbreaks included both COVID-19 and influenza.

Officials said the term "mixed outbreak" is used when there is "a combination of infections with different viruses are identified on a unit or in a facility."

That could include influenza, COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses, AHS said, adding that such circumstances are "common."

"During a declared respiratory outbreak, further infection, prevention and control measures are taken to reduce the spread of illness and protect patients, staff and visitors," AHS wrote in a statement.

Some of the measures AHS has taken in this circumstance has been continuous masking and eye protection, rigorous hand hygiene, additional cleaning of high-touch surfaces and isolation of patients when necessary.

BIOLOGIST RESEARCHER WEIGHS IN

As outbreaks soar and cases rise, University of Calgary developmental biologist Gosia Gasperowicz said there are issues that don’t need to be taking place.

“It doesn’t have to be like that. We have all the ways to prevent outbreaks,” said Gasperowicz. “It shouldn’t be normal.”

Gasperowicz pointed to respirator masks as a solution in public settings like long term care facilities, hospitals, childcare centre and schools to help bring case numbers downs. Her fear is that RSV, influenza and COVID-19 cases will continue to rise, putting the province into another tripledemic.

“We need to clean the air and bring back the mask mandate,” said Gasperowicz. “If we had mask mandates before the start of the season, those viruses would not be able to spread.”

To prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses she is advising people to be up to date with vaccinations and staying home when sick.

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