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26 lab-confirmed cases of flu across P.E.I. in just one week

The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) recommends people six months of age and older get vaccinated against the flu every year.
There have been 26 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in just one week in P.E.I. -File photo

The number of influenza cases has risen dramatically over the past two weeks, says P.E.I.’s chief health officer.

Dr. Heather Morrison said the number of cases isn’t necessarily unusual, but it is odd to see so many cases this early in the winter.

“It is widespread and I would anticipate we would see ongoing widespread influenza activity for the next few weeks,’’ Morrison said Thursday.

To date, there have been 17 hospitalizations and three deaths attributed to lab-confirmed cases of influenza. There have also been three outbreaks at nursing homes.

“We have definitely seen an increase in our influenza over the last couple of weeks. We have had 64 lab-confirmed cases but the lab-confirmed cases are just an indication of greater influenza activity across the province. Many people with influenza would not seek medical attention or would not get tested for influenza.’’

There have been 26 confirmed cases in the last week alone.

“We have definitely seen an increase in our influenza over the last couple of weeks. We have had 64 lab-confirmed cases but the lab-confirmed cases are just an indication of greater influenza activity across the province. Many people with influenza would not seek medical attention or would not get tested for influenza.’’
-Dr. Heather Morrison

Morrison said across the country and in P.E.I. the majority of influenza cases are being subtyped to an influenza AH3 type. What’s different this year is they’re seeing a bit more influenza B subtype earlier in the season and in greater numbers.

“It’s not so much the sheer number of cases is that we’re having more influenza B cases and that they’ve happened a little bit earlier.’’

In any season, physicians tend to see one predominant strain. Last year it was AH3 followed by B at the end of the season.

“Last year, I think we only had five cases of influenza B in total and we’ve already had 25 influenza B cases to date (this year).’’

Poll: Have you had the flu yet this season? 

For most people, the type of strain doesn’t matter. Everyone tends to get the same symptoms – sudden onset of fever, cough, sore throat and aches and pains.

The flu vaccine has four different strains of coverage, two strains of A and two strains of B.

“Unfortunately, one of the strains in the vaccine for the influenza AH3 component does not have a good match against the circulating strain of AH3, but it does have a very good match for the influenza H1N1 component as well as the influenza B component.’’

Morrison still recommends people get the shot if they haven’t already, explaining that it will reduce chances of being hospitalized as well as complications from the flu. The flu shot is free.

In its weekly FluWatch report, the Public Health Agency of Canada says there were 11,277 lab-confirmed cases of flu across the country as of Dec. 30 – about 70 per cent attributed to the H3N2 strain – with more than 1,000 influenza-related hospitalizations and 34 deaths.

However, a Public Health Ontario physician said those figures are an underestimate of the actual number of cases since, as Morrison mentioned, most people don’t seek medical attention and, therefore, aren't tested. As well, not all provinces and territories keep track of hospitalizations due to the flu.

 

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