Flu outbreaks, hospitalizations reported across Canada, latest numbers show

Click to play video: 'Health warning: potentially deadly flu season'
Health warning: potentially deadly flu season
Health officials are advising everyone to get a flu shot. This year’s strain is expected to be a bad one. Geoff Hastings has more on who’s at risk and why the vaccine should be a lot more effective this year – Oct 26, 2016

The flu season arrived in Canada just in time for the holidays, the latest government update on cases of influenza reported. There were “greater numbers” of influenza outbreaks and hospitalizations across the country.

By Dec. 17, there were 692 influenza cases across the country – H3N2, as predicted, was the dominant strain of flu virus circulating, according to the latest Flu Watch update.

The report said there were even 88 lab-confirmed flu outbreaks this season so far with most of them happening in long-term care facilities. With that detail in mind, seniors accounted for the largest proportion of people ending up in hospital or dying from the flu.

READ MORE: What happens to your body when you get the flu, step by step

Keep in mind, H3N2 is a virus that traditionally affects older patients more, leading to serious complications and higher rates of hospitalizations.

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British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia saw the greatest flu activity across the country. Alberta even recorded two flu-related deaths by December.

This is the last Flu Watch report for 2016. By the beginning of January, new government numbers will shed light on how the rest of December fared with flu activity.

READ MORE: What Canadians should expect from the 2016-17 flu season

The past few years have been a tumultuous ride when it comes to influenza: in 2014, Canadian hospitals were battling enterovirus in children while monitoring for Ebola across the country.

By 2015, global health officials were rocked by a flu vaccine mismatch which meant that the shot was only 23 per cent effective against that season’s nasty H3N2 virus.

And last year, a combination of factors – a warm winter, a better-matched vaccine and round two of H3N2 – meant that the flu season didn’t pick up steam until well into February.

READ MORE: 7 steps to surviving the cold and flu season without getting sick

As always, doctors are advising Canadians to get their flu shots to help protect themselves, and the people around them from catching influenza.

Kids as young as six months old can start getting the vaccine.

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READ MORE: Here’s what works and what doesn’t when you’re fighting a cough and cold

It’s also recommended for populations at risk of complications. These people who are more vulnerable include pregnant women, children under five years old, seniors and residents in long-term care or nursing homes.

Those with underlying health problems, such as chronic diseases (asthma, chronic bronchitis, cancer) should also make their way to a flu vaccination clinic.

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