The federal government is reporting a sharp increase in the flu in recent months, at a time of year when detected cases typically begin to decline in Canada.
The government’s latest FluWatch report says 2,121 laboratory detections of influenza, including 2,113 for influenza A and eight for influenza B, were reported during the week of May 8-14, most involving people under 45 years old.
“The number of detections and the weekly percentage of positive influenza tests have increased sharply since early April,” the report said.
“This upward trend in lab detections is unusual because lab detections typically decline at this time of year.”
TOTAL DETECTIONS BELOW AVERAGE BEFORE THE PANDEMIC
Although a total of 8,998 influenza detections have been reported so far this season, between August 29, 2021 and May 14, 2022, almost all for influenza A, this is still below the pre-pandemic average of 46 070 generally observed by this point in the season.
However, the percentage of positive influenza tests in the most recent reporting week is above expected pre-pandemic levels at 12.6%, compared to between 5 and 11.9%.
The number of tests carried out that week is also higher than the pre-pandemic average at 16,618 compared to 4,311.
Researchers have found that pandemic measures, put in place in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, have helped stem flu cases.
“So our reduced contact rates may have interrupted the transmission of other infectious diseases such as influenza,” Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr Theresa Tam, said Friday during a briefing. press conference.
“When most of the population public health measures like shutdowns and capacity limits were removed, we saw COVID-19 transmission rates rebound and now we are seeing influenza activity increase through to seasonal threshold, despite the opposite trend expected at this time of year.”
The flu report says ILI accounted for 1.8% of all visits to healthcare professionals in the last reporting week, exceeding pre-pandemic levels typically seen at this point in time. ‘year.
However, the report states that ILI symptoms are not specific to any respiratory pathogen and could be due to influenza, SARS-CoV-2 or the virus that causes COVID-19, or other respiratory viruses.
“This indicator should be interpreted with caution as there have been changes in individuals’ healthcare-seeking behavior and a lower number of sentinels reporting compared to previous seasons,” the report said.
In the last reporting week, there were 56 influenza-associated hospitalizations and three intensive care unit admissions, as reported by nine participating provinces and territories.
During the same week, 26 hospitalizations were reported among those aged 16 and under.
Influenza-associated pediatric hospitalizations are also increasing, with a total of 152 reported cases, 64% of which are in children under five. Seventeen pediatric intensive care unit admissions were also reported.
So far this season, there have been 322 flu-associated hospitalizations. The largest proportion, 39%, involved adults aged 65 and over. There were 28 intensive care unit admissions.
In the last reporting week, there have been five laboratory-confirmed flu outbreaks, including two in long-term care facilities, two in facilities classified as “other”, which may include personal care homes institutions, correctional facilities and colleges or universities, and an outbreak in an acute care facility.
A total of 39 outbreaks have been reported so far this season, including 18 in long-term care facilities, 15 in “other” facilities, three in remote or isolated communities and three in nursing homes. short duration.
Of the ILI outbreaks, three have been reported in schools in the last reporting week and a total of 86 have been reported this season, all but one in schools or daycares.
The report highlights that ILI outbreaks can be due to influenza or other respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
“Many respiratory viruses in addition to influenza commonly circulate during fall and winter and can cause clusters of respiratory disease cases that could be captured as ILI,” the report states.
Flu vaccine coverage this season appears to be similar to that of the 2020-2021 season, with 30% of adults aged 18-64 reporting having received the flu vaccine. This includes 27% coverage among those without chronic conditions and 38% among those with chronic conditions.
Seventy-one percent of people aged 65 and over have received the vaccine.
Earlier this year, CanAge, Canada’s national seniors advocacy organization, gave the country a D- grade for its 2021 adult vaccination efforts against non-COVID-19 preventable diseases such as flu and shingles. Many provinces were also missing.
With files from CTVNews.ca writers Brooklyn Neustaeter, Tom Yun and Alexandra Mae Jones.
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