As you get together with family and friends this time of year, you may be sharing more than just holiday cheer.
Flu cases are spiking in Quebec just in time for Christmas, and emergency rooms are overflowing. At the Montreal Children’s Hospital Emergency Department on Christmas Eve Day, Dr. Dominic Chalut was fighting an uphill battle to lower wait times.
“Right now, it’s very busy. We can have up to 100 patients waiting in the waiting room to be seen,” he told Global News. “Waiting times can be up to 12 hours.”
The number of positive tests for the influenza virus in Quebec has been increasing all year. The latest official numbers gathered the week of December 15th show 17.7 of tests came back positive. Last year over the same time period, 12.2 per cent of tests came back positive.
Quebec still ranks below the national average of 22.8 per cent.
“During the holidays, we’re going to see a lot of family members, so be careful when you meet with them,” said Chalut. “Wash your hands, don’t cough in their faces, and don’t share the same utensils or glasses.”
Neil Patel and Emily Voisin brought their young son to the Children’s ER after an asthma attack, and hoped to be out in time to make their holiday dinner on Christmas Day.
“It’s tomorrow night, so hopefully we’re out of here by then,” said Patel.
WATCH: Tips for tackling cold and flu symptoms
Emergency rooms all over the city are dealing with high numbers. As of Dec. 24 at 10 a.m., the most overcrowded was the Lasalle Hospital emergency room at 140 per cent capacity. The Jewish General Hospital ER was at 136 per cent capacity, and the Royal Victoria ER was at 130 per cent capacity.
At the Children’s Hospital, parents and caregivers are advised not to bring their kids unless it’s really necessary.
“If you see a kid with fever for three days or less, a cough, a runny nose, appetite might be affected, but if he’s other otherwise pleasant, playful, able to walk, and talk to you, those are all good signs,” Chalut said.
“A child that is very sleepy, doesn’t eat, has minimal intake, has difficulty breathing, seems to be tired, you should bring him in.”
He added that you should be more concerned if your child is under three months old and showing symptoms.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of bronchiolitis right now,” Chalut said. “It’s possible you’ll go back home, but at least you’ll be evaluated.”
On the Childrens’ website, there is a list of clinics around the city you can visit instead of going to the ER.
“For urgent cases, we invite you to come to the emergency room. For non-urgent cases, try to see if there’s clinics open around your area or postpone your visit for a few days,” Chalut said.
If you’re unlucky enough to find yourself at the Childrens’ ER over the holidays, at least there are people doing their best to bring holiday cheer.
A maintenance worker named Marcel decked out his zamboni-like floor cleaning machine with Christmas decorations and a speaker blaring Christmas songs.
“I do it for the spirit. The kids are loving it,” he told Global News.
Marcel was spreading joy in a place that reminds you to do your part to stop the spread of the flu.