The Northwestern Health Unit collects information about infectious diseases throughout our communities. This information helps to detect unusually high or unexpected risks to the public, such as new or severe viruses, food or water contamination, or increased danger to our most vulnerable residents
The information we gather shows trends of diseases: increasing or decreasing in our region (Kenora and Rainy River Districts) or parts of our region. The follow-up we do evaluates risk, that is, the changing likelihood that our residents might be affected. Our information does not provide case-counts, or definitive numbers of people affected. For example, consider influenza or chicken pox. These are both diseases of public health significance and we are notified when the public health laboratory finds a positive result. However, not every person who has influenza or chicken pox visits a doctor and/ or has a lab test done. Therefore we will see an increase in lab reports when there is more of the disease, but we cannot state that there is a specific number of people affected. Our focus is on addressing the increased risks to the public
Through regular annual inspections at various service-related premises, the health unit makes sure that the clients that use these services are not at risk of getting an infection.
During inspections, public health inspectors look for proper hand washing techniques, safe cleaning and disinfection procedures, laundry and dishwashing procedures, drinking water quality, and proper disposal of refuse/human wastes.
In order to monitor risk, we maintain partnerships with hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, and child care centres; as well as connecting with municipalities, emergency services, seniors' residences and activity centres, child-related groups, workplaces, and more.
We can assist with development and ongoing revision of policies and procedures that incorporate current evidence into routine practices to decrease the spread of infection. If a facility is considering purchase of equipment, we can help to evaluate whether the item will add new disease spread risk and how it can be effectively cleaned. We can assist in creating cleaning routines that focus on what is most likely to reduce the spread of illness, and advise on where to add additional measures when the amount of illness in a facility is high. Schools, daycares and even workplaces might need assistance in developing policies and tools advising on immunization requirements or recommendations, hand hygiene and cleaning while in the facility, and staying home when sick.