Canada continues to be in the thick of the flu epidemic, according to the latest national FluWatch, which reports a steady incline of influenza activity – particularly affecting young children and older adults.
“At the national level, influenza activity has continued to increase steeply as we enter the fifth week of the national influenza epidemic. All surveillance indicators are increasing and all are above expected levels typical of this time of year,” the report released on Friday said.
Between Nov. 20 and Nov. 26, 8,226 laboratory detections were reported, compared to the 5,891 reported in the previous week; an increase of about 14.8 per cent. The hardest hit provinces with influenza include P.E.I., Alberta and British Columbia.
Within just a few weeks, infections shot up. The earliest report this month, ending the week of Nov. 5, reported 999 influenza detections among individuals between the ages of five and 19 years old. In the latest report, ending Nov. 26, that number had increased to 4,692.
Many of the cases, roughly 46 per cent, were reported in Canadians aged 0-19 years old. However, the groups experiencing more serious outcomes from influenza were children under the age of four and adults over the age of 45.
Hospitalizations among children ages 0-4 are among the highest, at 40.9 per cent of confirmed cases. Specifically, children aged 2-4 have been hospitalized the most, with 203 reported admissions this past week. Of cases in adults aged 65 and older, the rate of hospitalization rose to 33.4 per cent in the latest report. Since the start of the influenza season in August, there have been 109 ICU admissions and 36-influenza linked deaths, the report said.
The report indicates the current influenza-like illness (ILI) rates are above normal seasonal levels, as is the rate of cough and fever among Canadians. ILI includes any symptoms not related to one sole respiratory illness, but includes other viruses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
Health experts have been cautioning Canadians throughout the flu season to take precautions, as the epidemic, combined with COVID-19 cases, RSV and other respiratory illnesses, as well as a shortage of children’s pain relief medications, have exacerbated hospitals across the country and overwhelmed other parts of the health-care system.
A recent report by the National Institute on Aging indicated there has been a slow uptick in flu vaccinations among Canadians this season. The study found only 48 per cent of Canadians received their flu vaccine throughout the 2021-22 season. Those 65 and older were particularly lower than anticipated, with 70 per cent reported having been vaccinated against the flu. The Public Health Agency of Canada indicates an 80 per cent vaccination rate is needed among the 65-and-older population to effectively protect the vulnerable group.
Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Therea Tam, said in a health briefing last week that Canadians should get their flu shot, wear a mask and stay home when sick, especially as the holiday season brings larger groups of people together.
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Olivia Bowden.