Two flu-related deaths confirmed on P.E.I.

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Nancy MacPhee
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Chief health officer says usually one to four flu deaths per year

CHARLOTTETOWN — Two Islanders have died from the flu.

The flu shot is still available from Public Health Nursing.

“Over the last few days we had reports of two lab confirmed influenza related deaths, both in people over age 60 who had other health conditions,” said the province’s chief health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, late Wednesday afternoon. “The two deaths occurred in the last week.”

Morrison would not indicate where the deaths occurred, whether it was in hospital, at a seniors care facility or at the home of the deceased, or where in the province the two people were from.

“I don’t give that kind of information out,” she added. “It was not related to an influenza outbreak at a long-term care facility. There have been sometimes death from influenza in long-term care outbreaks but this wasn’t. We haven’t had any long-term care influenza outbreaks this season.”

Morrison said, on average, there are between one and four influenza-related deaths in this province each year.

“Two is not out of keeping with that,” she said, adding that number is based on data going back to the year 2000. “Before that, the numbers vary.”

In total, there have been 51 lab-confirmed flu hospitalizations in the province so far this winter.

“Three out of the last four years we have had hospitalizations of 50 plus,” she added. “We have twice that number of actual lab confirmed cases.”

But, said Morrison, there are far more cases of the flu across the Island, noting that once the flu struck weeks ago doctors have not been swabbing every patient exhibiting symptoms and the lab stopped testing.

“They tend to swab people that are being admitted and other high-risk people but it is just an indication that it is circulating widely.”

Morrison couldn’t comment on whether any Island hospitals had any restrictions in place due to the presence of the flu.

“We are in the middle of influenza season, so we always give the same kind of message what the public should do to try and protect themselves and others, like washing their hands, coughing into sleeves and staying at home from school or work,” she added. “I believe from the hospital infection control point of view during influenza season and really all year round, if someone comes in with a respiratory illness there are certain precautions they put in place.”

Morrison did say the flu has now spread Island wide and the majority of cases are in Islanders aged 20 to 60, which, she added, isn’t the norm.

Also, she noted, at least one Island school report a couple of weeks ago having a large number of influenza-related absences.

The strain that has hit P.E.I. is primarily PH1N1, the same strain that has been seen across the country in recent weeks and months and the same strain that has been circulating since 2009.

“What’s different this year is that we are seeing it as the main circulating strain as opposed to last year when there was a little bit of H1N1 but it was mainly H3N2.”

Morrison said that the flu vaccine is still available from Public Health Nursing.

She note that if you have the flu to stay home until the symptoms subside in order to prevent passing it along to others.

 

nmacphee@journalpioneer.com

 

 

 

Geographic location: P.E.I., Iceland, Islanders

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