A busy, deadly flu season so far in Waterloo Region.
Kristy Wright is Manager of Infectious Disease and Tuberculosis Control at ROW Public Health.
She says they’ve seen a higher level of flu activity compared to last year.
“We also haven’t seen this kind of circulation of both Influenza A and Influenza B at the same time in many years – and that’s made for an interesting season.”
So far this season, there have been over 150 cases and 13 influenza-related deaths.
“People do forget that we have influenza-related deaths each season .. it is a significant infection, particularly for those most vulnerable. This year, the age that has been impacted most is 65 plus – so it’s understandable influenza illness has been most significant to that age group, and unfortunately has caused death.”
Wright says over the last few years, there were usually between 0 and 15 influenza-related deaths per year.
“This year so far, we’re sitting at about 13 influenza-related deaths. The flu vaccine is still available at family doctors, walk-in clinics, and local pharmacies.”
The circulation of both Influenza strains is impacting long term care and retirement homes as well – with over 22 outbreaks declared already this season. National data indicates that the dominant circulating strain of influenza A is H3N2 – which tends to impact those over 65.
Visitors and staff are reminded to stay away from these homes if they’re feeling sick – as senior citizens are the most susceptible to the flu.
Wright adds that unfortunately – flu season never really ends.
“We see flu cases throughout the year – but certainly we see a concentration of them during our typical respiratory season which usually runs from October to about March or April. The flu is very unpredictable, so some seasons we’ll have a late start, or early end.”
Meantime, the busy flu season has led to busy emergency departments.
Mark Karjaluoto with Grand River Hospital says typically, hospitals see a lot more volume over the flu season.
“Our Emergency Department has been seeing an increase of about 10 to 15 per cent in volumes, and some days we see tremendous spikes. Now that can be due to a number of different things, but we certainly always know the winter months will be busier due to the flu – and we have to be prepared for that.”
Karjaluoto says if you’re coming into the hospital, and you’re not feeling well – don’t come in!
“Go home, take care of yourself for a few days, and come back when you’re feeling better. At the hospital we’re already dealing with people who aren’t well, so they’re extra vulnerable. If you’re coming here, get your flu shot, and make sure you’re washing your hands regularly.”
So far during this flu season, vaccine distribution is up 2.3 per cent in Waterloo Region – with health care providers like pharmacies receiving 46,110 influenza vaccine doses.