As New Brunswick moves into the holiday season, the province is still grappling with flu season.
The province reported 229 cases of influenza between Nov. 13 and 19, which is the most recent period for which data is available. That’s more than double the number in the prior period of Nov. 6 to 12.
There have been 462 cases reported since the beginning of the flu season, the province said. Since flu season began, 120 people have been hospitalized and nine people have died.
The province noted that the reports of influenza-type illnesses have been higher than expected this year, with roughly 6.38 patients per 100 consulting a doctor. According to public health, 22 school outbreaks have been reported.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, warned in November that exposure to respiratory illnesses would increase, following the departure of many COVID-19 mandates.
The latest flu watch numbers by the federal government show that there were 8,242 laboratory detections of influenza in Canada from Nov. 20 to 26. Positivity rates also rose to 23.1 per cent from 19.9 per cent, and 46 per cent of detections were among newborn infants to those aged 19.
“With the relaxing of public health measures and the return to in-person learning, work and social activities, our contact rates have increased,” said Tam.
“This means more opportunities for exposure to COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.”
Dr. Michèle Michaud, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said it has noted an uptick in respiratory illness in hospitals, adding that the population has become sicker this year compared with last year without masking and public health restrictions.
She said the province is seeing a rapid increase in the number of influenza infections, while at the same it is also seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, as well as some other viruses.
“So we are experiencing a population that is sicker in the past few weeks,” Michaud said.
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She said that ER visits have also jumped over the past few weeks, which has left already struggling hospitals feeling the pinch ahead of the holidays, even as they expect more residents to gather indoors.
“(Influenza) has caused more ER visits in ERs that are already overwhelmed,” said Michaud.
“We are seeing a higher rate of hospitalizations at the same time. We have difficulty with health-care workers that do need to isolate if they are sick.”
The Medical Society is reminding people to wash their hands often, stay home if they are sick, and to cover up when they cough or sneeze.
Global News reached out to the province for comment from the Department of Health and received a statement that read in part: “As Dr. Léger has noted previously, this year’s influenza season has arrived earlier, and in greater intensity, than in recent years. And, in combination with COVID-19 and RSV, we’re seeing lots of activity so far in this respiratory illness season.”