Manitoba’s COVID-19 screening checklist under review after B.C. removes symptoms

Health officials in Manitoba are reviewing the list of COVID-19 symptoms parents need to watch for before sending their kids to school, after British Columbia removed a number of symptoms from its screening tool. 

Among the symptoms removed from the daily checklist are sore throat, runny nose, headache and fatigue. 

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said the province’s screening checklist is under review, but any decisions on what symptoms to include will be based on local conditions, such as the rate of absenteeism.

“If we have all those screening methods in and we’re not seeing very high levels of absenteeism, then we don’t necessarily have to remove it,” he said at a news conference on Monday.

The B.C. Ministry of Health confirmed it had removed 10 symptoms from its list. The symptoms removed are:

  • Sore throat.
  • Runny/stuffy nose.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye).
  • Dizziness, confusion.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Skin rash or discolouration of fingers and toes.

The decision to remove the symptoms was made on the recommendation of B.C. public health officials, because of the low probability of those symptoms, on their own, indicating COVID-19, the ministry said. 

They are also common in children, and thus could unnecessarily exclude some children. 

Roussin said about 10 per cent of Manitoba’s cases presented with only a runny nose.

“If you have a very sensitive screening tool, it means many people will be excluded who don’t have COVID. If you decrease that sensitivity, then you increase the chances of somebody with COVID passing the screening test,” he said.

As the province moves into seasonal cold and flu season, the number of people with these symptoms could increase, potentially causing problems if a significant number of people are forced to stay home, Roussin said. 

Manitoba’s screening checklist can be viewed online.

The bulk of the symptoms removed from the daily health check for students are still included in both B.C.’s self-assessment tool and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s list of COVID-19 symptoms.

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