Flu Season's Upon Us

By Kirk Winter

There are few guarantees of a typical Canadian winter anymore. With erratic weather patterns, a large portion of Canada experienced a “Green Christmas” in 2018.

However unpredictable the weather has become, most Canadians have come to expect that with winter comes the flu.

The winter of 2019 is shaping up to be a busier year than normal for influenza. Influenza A was expected to be the strain filling emergency wards with people feeling poorly this winter, and that has played out as expected.

According to the Government of Canada, 99 percent of reported flu cases have been Influenza A. Of those cases of Influenza A reported, 94 percent have been of the H1N1 sub-strain.

Many will find the H1N1 nomenclature familiar. We have seen it before. Those who don’t recognize the formal label know H1N1 as the Bird Flu. While no more deadly in adults than the other strains of Influenza A, H1N1 has a very worrying trend borne out over its numerous appearances on the world stage. H1N1 is especially hard on affected patients under the age of 18 and is one of the few strains of the flu that is harder on children than adults. Since January 1, six Canadian children have fallen victim to the Bird Flu.

The number of confirmed flu cases coast to coast is significantly worse than it was last year, with January and February still to come. This time last year, there were 11,275 confirmed cases of the flu on file. This winter we have already reached 13,796 confirmed cases of the flu.

For most adults, the presence of the milder H1N1 strain is a blessing in disguise. Last year’s Influenza B and H3N2 strain were brutal. Governments around the world in 2018 also incorrectly guessed which flu strain would dominate, and the vaccine last year did not necessarily provide the protection it should have. Two years ago, North America experienced its worst flu season since 1976. In the United States alone, an estimated 80,000 people succumbed to the flu in 2017.

Government officials in Canada are worried that with fewer and fewer Canadians getting their flu shots for a variety of reasons, we might be looking at another record setting season for influenza in 2019.

Health officials say it is not too late to get your flu shot. Doctors also recommend that people wash their hands regularly this winter, recognizing that the flu can be found almost anywhere. Doctors also cannot stress enough that once you realize you have the flu, stay home until the illness passes. An infected person who insists upon going to school or work can spread their highly infectious germs to dozens of other people.

Doctors recommend that in all but the most extreme cases of H1N1, you avoid hospital emergency wards. There is no antibiotic for the flu, and an extended sit in a typical ER will do nothing for improving your health in the short- or long-term.