Flu season straining emergency rooms, hitting kids hard
Published Saturday, December 29, 2018 4:56PM EST Last Updated Saturday, December 29, 2018 10:15PM EST
Hospital emergency rooms in Montreal are over capacity and wait times are reportedly up in Winnipeg as the flu spreads in Canada.
In Quebec, emergency room doctors are urging people to stay home if they can. A dozen emergency rooms were over 100 per cent capacity at the start of the weekend.
Quebec father Marco Vanderway brought his son to the Montreal Children's Hospital on Friday morning after the seven-year-old had an ongoing fever and cough. Their family doctor is on leave for the holidays so they went to the hospital instead.
Montreal Children's Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Raphael Paquin said Christmas is often a busy season because some clinics and family doctors offices close between Christmas and New Year's Day. This year is no exception.
"It's extremely busy," Dr. Paquin said.
Dr. Paquin said that doctors usually prescribe rest and plenty of fluids, noting that most cases of the flu “do not requirement treatment with antibiotics and therefore will get better without any intervention.”
McGill University Health Centre physician Dr. Mitch Shulman said that people should think twice about going to the emergency room if they believe they have influenza.
"Most people who don't have a serious underlying health issue can stay at home for a couple of days, take something to bring down their fever, treat their symptoms and weather it out," Dr. Shulman said.
Influenza killed more than 300 people in Canada last year, but is usually only deadly in those with underlying medical conditions.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist in Toronto, said that people who suspect they have influenza should seek assistance if they’re getting dehydrated and can’t keep down fluids on their own.
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Chief Health Operations Officer Krista Williams said that this year’s flu season hasn’t been as bad as last year so far, but the flu is still straining resources.
Manitoba's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Richard Rusk said that the lighter load may be because this year's predominant strain is H1N1, which hits children more often than adults.
"It's pretty hard on them but they do bounce (back) faster than what we do or definitely our parents or grandparents," he said.
In the latest weekly FluWatch report, the Public Health Agency of Canada said that instances of influenza across Canada "continued to increase" just before the Christmas holidays, with the majority of confirmed cases being among individuals under the age of 65.
The report showed that in Quebec as in the Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick, the flu was considered "localized," the second most severe category before the illness becomes "widespread."
The next round of Public Health Agency of Canada reporting on cases of the flu across the country will be released on Jan. 4.