Flu cases well below expected levels this season: Public Health
Published Sunday, December 27, 2015 1:51PM EST
It seems very few Canadians are getting sick with the flu this year.
The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that flu cases are well below expected levels for this time of the year. But that doesn’t mean that there might not be a few outbreaks come January.
Canada typically sees flu outbreaks as early as October to as late as May. Yet this year, PHAC’s FluWatch program says it has received only 30 reports of flu outbreaks, with 13 of them in long-term care facilities, such as nursing and group homes.
By this time last year, there had been 95 outbreaks, including 84 in long-term care homes.
As well, only eight flu patients have been admitted to hospital intensive care units so far this year; last year, by this time, there had been 312 hospitalizations.
One might assume that the warm weather that eastern Canada has been enjoying could be the reason behind the low numbers. But even parts of Canada dealing with a normally cold winter are still seeing very little flu, says Dr. Richard Schabas, the medical officer of health for Hastings Prince Edward Country.
“It’s very clear there’s been very little flu activity really anywhere in Canada so far this year,” he told CTV News Channel from Warkworth, Ont.
Flu activity tends to peak this time of year in part because holiday gatherings are the perfect venue or the virus to spread. Schabas says it’s possible that the warm weather may be a factor in why there haven’t been many flu outbreaks, since we are spending a little more time outdoors. But it could be simply that this is a quiet year for influenza.
“It’s obviously a bit early to tell but it’s quite possible we’re just not going to see a lot of flu this year,” he said, adding that flu case numbers tend to fall every four or five years anyway.
Schabas thinks our flu immunity is likely the biggest factor in this year’s low flu numbers. He notes that last year was “a very busy flu season” and it’s possible that Canadians who were infected or immunized last year are still carrying that immunity into this year.
Symptoms of the flu are similar to the common cold, but also include a high fever of 39 degrees Celsius and above, as well as intense fatigue, headache and muscle aches. It takes one to four days for flu symptoms to appear after exposure to the virus and most people recover within a week to 10 days.