Health Canada reports over 8,000 cases of type A influenza nationally since late August
By Keating Smith, Staff Writer
The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported an earlier and greater spike in flu cases across Canada—more than what has been normally observed in the last two years.
“From August 26 to December 29, 2012, a total of 8,190 positive influenza specimens have been detected by provincial and territorial laboratories across Canada,” according to Health Canada’s Sara Laurer. “During the same period last year, there were only 324 positive influenza specimens detected.”
“The increased numbers are within the range of what Health Canada expects to see in the midst of influenza season; however this is an early start to the flu season,” says Laurer.
Last April, the agency saw 8,606 positive influenza specimens from cumulative laboratory detections across the nation since August 2011 and the 2011-2012 influenza season had a mix of influenza A (50.6 per cent) and influenza B (49.4 per cent).
Throwing further complications into the matter, health officials are also seeing a rise in the outbreak of norovirus throughout the country. The British Columbia Center for Disease Control has stated on that “norovirus season has begun early this year with the arrival of a new strain [and] since October 2012 there have been higher than expected requests for gastroenteritis outbreak laboratory testing, as well as higher norovirus positive test results when compared to this time in 2011.”
Influenza and norovirus may exhibit similar illnesses in the body but the two are completely different viruses. The norovirus typically lasts two to three days whereas the flu can show symptoms in the body lasting for several weeks.
A spokesperson for Providence Health Care has stated that St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is at maximum capacity with all beds in use due to the overwhelming number of cases of the flu in the region. Most of the people who have been admitted to hospital facilities in the Lower Mainland are over the age of 65, according to several different health authorities in the region.
“It is too early to tell if the flu season overall will be worse than in previous years, as we don’t yet know how long the season will last or when it will peak,” Laurer said.
The BC Ministry of Health has also expressed concerns over the H3N2 virus prevailing in the province after not seeing a case of influenza nearly as bad since the H1N1 virus in 2009.