Flu season in Canada: increased cases of influenza B reported in the midst of the first deaths

TORONTO –
The Public Health Agency of Canada reports a significant increase in influenza outbreaks. A total of 162 outbreaks were reported over a period of three weeks, according to the agency’s report that analyzes influenza activity in Canada.

Influenza A and B strains are circulating and have resulted in deaths throughout Canada. A student has died in Winnipeg due to complications of the flu, while two deaths have been reported in New Brunswick. There has been a death related to influenza in Ottawa, according to the Ottawa Public Health Agency.

FluWatch, the report of the public health agency of Canada, found that between December 15, 2019 and January 4, 2020 there were 258 pediatric hospitalizations related to the flu.

“The sharp increase in the number of cases in recent weeks is probably due to the concurrent circulation of influenza A and B this season,” the report said.

PHAC also found that cases of influenza B circulate at higher levels than usual and at the beginning of the year. According to FluWatch, cases of the strain are usually reported in February or March.

The strain is also affecting a mainly younger age group, with 59% of cases of influenza B affecting people under 20 years. 30% affects people between 20 and 44 years old.

According to FluWatch, cases of influenza A remain the “predominant circulating type.”

“The majority of hospitalizations were due to influenza A (90 percent), and among subtypes (68) 87 percent were influenza A (H1N1),” the report reads.

Deaths throughout Canada

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Winnipeg School Division confirmed that the 12th grade student Blaine Ruppenthal died due to flu complications.

“We are shocked and deeply sad at the news of his death,” the director of Ruppenthal wrote in the letter sent to parents and guardians.

Some patients in Winnipeg were sent to hospitals outside the city due to the high volume of people affected by cases of influenza A and B.

In New Brunswick, two deaths have been reported.

Dr. Chris Goodyear, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, says “it is not too late to get a flu shot if you have not yet been vaccinated.”

“If you fall into the population at risk, or in the elderly population, we encourage you to go out and get vaccinated absolutely against the flu,” he told CTV Atlantic.

Ottawa Public Health said there was a flu-related death on Monday.

The Ottawa Children’s Hospital, CHEO, reports more than 65 cases of influenza B compared to only three for this time last year. They are also seeing an increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a lung infection that usually affects children.

The best defense against influenza is vaccination, health officials say.

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