Shaar Shalom online event focuses on risks to seniors from COVID-19

Mortality risk high for those 70 or older, said experts from CISSS de Laval

“If you develop symptoms of a respiratory tract infection and if you live with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, unfortunately you almost certainly have it too,” Dr. Stéphanie Susser, medical coordinator for environmental health at the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de Laval, told an online information session for senior citizens last week organized by Congregation Shaar Shalom in Chomedey.

COVID knowledge

Dr. Susser, who has been working at the Laval Public Health Department since 2015 as a preventive medicine specialist, was invited by Dr. Jean-Pierre Trépanier, the Director of Public Health for the Laval region, to speak because she is currently working with the CISSS de Laval’s COVID management team.

She said knowledge of COVID-19 is evolving very quickly, and recent studies suggest that a significant proportion of infected people may not exhibit any symptoms at all.

‘You cannot tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu based on symptoms alone because they are too similar’

“There is also evidence that people are contagious before the first signs and symptoms appear. This finding has led the government to recommend the precaution of voluntary face coverings to reduce the risk that people with few or no symptoms spread the virus in public places where it’s difficult to stay two metres away from others.”

According to Dr. Susser, the risk of serious complications from COVID-19 increases with age, “but even young people are at risk,” she said.

Higher risk over 70

She said the risk of dying from serious respiratory complications, such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome due to COVID-19, is especially high in people 70 or over, people who have weakened immune systems, and people who have chronic diseases affecting the heart, lungs and kidneys, as well as diabetes.

“You cannot tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu based on symptoms alone because they are too similar,” she continued. “The only way to be sure is to get tested.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic around a year ago, according to Dr. Trépanier, more than 22,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to the public health department in Laval. More than 15,000 of these cases were reported since the beginning of the start of the second wave in August last year, underlining the seriousness of the second wave. Up to Jan. 30, there had been 834 deaths, with the average age of the deceased being 85.4 years, according to a diagram issued by the CISSS de Laval.

Encouraging numbers

Dr. Trépanier maintained that since the peak of the second wave in December, the COVID-19 numbers in Laval have been decreasing. While diagnostic tests being conducted around the time of the peak revealed a 12 per cent infection rate, he said the results of tests more recently show a rate of five per cent. However, with health care workers factored in, the rate rises to 10 per cent, he added.

Dr. Susser recommended being tested for COVID-19 (even if you don’t have symptoms) in the following situations: (1) If you’ve had close contact (meaning contact for more than 15 minutes, less than 2 metres apart without a mask) with someone who had COVID-19 up to 48 hours before their symptoms began (or, if they don’t have symptoms, 48 hours before they got tested. (2) If you received an exposure notification from a COVID Alert app. And (3) if you receive a call from public health and are asked to go and get tested.

Beware the symptoms

Dr. Susser said it is important to understand that COVID-19 can present with no symptoms, or with symptoms that are very non-specific. “This year in particular, very few other viruses are going around. So, if you feel sick, it’s probably COVID.”

She said that if you have symptoms that are similar to the flu, gastroenteritis or even COVID – classic symptoms such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing, or if you have no symptoms but were in close contact with a person who did test positive for COVID – you can plan your next step by using a decision fact sheet which is available at the following website:

As she pointed out, the document is available in a fairly wide range of languages, including English, French, Hebrew, Yiddish and others. A COVID-19 self-care guide is also accessible on the same website, and these tools are updated as new information about the coronavirus becomes available.

A Shaar Shalom event

Last week’s event was organized by Congregation Shaar Shalom vice-president Lewis Fogel, president Mike Andradi, and Young Israel of Chomedey president Issie Baum. Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette was among those who logged into the online platform to take part in the event. “We would like take this opportunity to thank our speakers,” the organizers said in a statement explaining the purpose of the evening. “We are aware that seniors are having difficulties at this time and need help.”