Doctors who monitor the types of flu strains that circulate are noticing an abnormal trend this season.
Influenza A and B strains are circulating at the same time and two deaths have been reported in New Brunswick so far this season.
It is the time of the year for maximum influenza activity, and a clearer picture of which flu strains are circulating is beginning to form.
“In a typical flu season we see influenza A and then at the end of the flu season, from March to April we see ‘influenza B,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Medical Director of Health of Nova Scotia. “Last year and again this year we are seeing a mix of influenza A and influenza B together.”
That, by itself, is not alarming for the best doctor in Nova Scotia.
However, the very young may be at greater risk, earlier than usual.
“Influenza B can sometimes have a greater impact on children, so we can have more children affected at this time of the flu season,” Strang said.
The public health agency of Canada already reports that the number of pediatric influenza cases is well above the average for this time of year, an activity that is beginning to appear here.
“In recent weeks, we have begun to see an increase in flu activity, whether people show up in the emergency room or the number of laboratory confirmed cases,” Strang said.
The flu vaccine was available in the fall and is recommended for all demographic ages, but especially for the very young and elderly.
“It’s not too late to get a flu shot if you haven’t been vaccinated yet,” said Dr. Chris Goodyear, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society. “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.”
Strang says the first signs of vaccine effectiveness are encouraging.
“The evidence to date would say we can expect to get good protection from this year’s flu vaccine against strains A and B,” Strang said.
The exact information to show how effective the 2020 flu vaccine is will not be available until February at the earliest.