Walk-in clinics and emergency rooms across the country are filling up as influenza activity continues to surge.
According to federal data, there were 1,301 new cases confirmed the week of Nov. 25 to Dec. 1 bringing the seasonal total across the nation to 4,485.
The number of pediatric hospitalizations is significantly higher this year and in Saskatchewan, where the flu struck first is a bit unusual.
“This year we’re seeing more influenza in northern communities, Prince Albert and Saskatoon area,” said Dr. Simon Kapaj, a medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
“In previous years, we’ve seen the flu season start somewhere in southern Saskatchewan first then central then north.”
Since Sept. 1, there have been five outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, six ICU admissions and two influenza related-deaths.
“Both of these cases were originally from Saskatoon and area, however both individuals had other underlying medical conditions,” Kapaj added.
Based on provincial surveillance, the total number of newly identified cases over the past week was 109 in 2018 up 445 per cent compared to 2017 when there were just 20.
Overall, numbers are more than five times higher this year with 557 total lab-confirmed cases since Sept. 1, versus 106 in 2017.
“Most years it starts late November, early December,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer.
“This year the flu has started two to three weeks earlier, but the rate at which influenza is increasing is entirely within the norms of a typical flu-season.”
The other good news says health officials, the 368,000 doses of vaccine ordered by the province appears to be a good match for this year’s strain.
More 247,000 people have received a flu shot in the province . You’re still encouraged to get one if you haven’t already, since health officials believe this year’s flu season will peak over the holiday season.
Anyone six months of age and older can receive the flu vaccine, it’s especially important for people at high risk for complications including the elderly, children under five, and pregnant women.