A three-year-old girl from Quebec has died from the flu during an influenza season that is taking its toll on younger Canadians.

On Jan. 14, Nancy Bouchard’s daughter Charlotte had a high fever. She brought the young girl to the hospital near their home in Gatineau, Que. the following day where she was diagnosed with the flu.

Three days later, Charlotte was dead.

Dr. Anne Pham-Huy, a pediatric physician and infectious disease specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), said Charlotte’s case highlights the unpredictability of influenza. She also explained that while flu vaccines don’t work 100 per cent of the time, they’re still the best defence against the infection.

“I think about the vaccine a bit like soldiers or guards at the door so you don’t get influenza in, but if you do get influenza, sometimes it can be not as severe,” Pham-Huy told CTV Ottawa on Wednesday.

This year’s influenza season has been longer than in years past. It’s also affecting a different segment of the population – teenagers and children.

As of Jan. 12, there have been 20,494 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases across the country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s most recent data.

For young people under the age of 19, there have been 406 hospitalizations for the flu, with the highest estimated rate among those under the age of five.

Younger people have been hardest hit because this year’s predominantly circulating influenza A strain is H1N1. It’s the same strain that caused a pandemic in 2009-2010 and has been known as the “swine flu.”

Unlike H3N2, the strain that has dominated recent previous flu seasons, H1N1 tends to affect young adults and children more than seniors.

According to PHAC, there have been seven influenza-associated deaths in children under the age of 10 since Aug. 26.

In Ottawa, CHEO has increased its staffing levels to deal with the influx of young patients with the flu.

Alex Munter, the president and CEO of the hospital, said cases of the flu have doubled in the past week.

“You don’t want to be here. Keep your child out of hospital – not too late for you and them to get a flu shot,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

Pham-Huy, too, reminded Canadians that it’s still a good idea to get the shot even at this stage in the winter.

“There are various strains of influenza as well that are covered by the vaccine and they come up at different times during the year,” she explained. “It’s not too late to get your influenza vaccine.”

Charlotte never received a flu shot. Following her daughter’s death, Bouchard said she will have her younger son Liam vaccinated against the flu.