Peak flu season claims three Sask. children

By CJME News
January 10, 2019 - 9:31am

It has been a deadly flu season across Canada and Saskatchewan this year.

According to the province’s influenza surveillance report, six people have died of the flu as of Dec. 29, and the Ministry of Health has confirmed three were children under the age of five.

During the same timeframe, there were only two reported deaths from influenza last year.

The flu season started earlier this year and Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said it has peaked. However, he’s expecting another two to four weeks of transmission.

While there were 64 new lab-confirmed cases of the flu reported in the last week of December, it was a drastic drop from the week before which saw 294 new cases.

There have been 1,723 lab confirmed cases of the flu since Sept. 1.

Kids under the age of five have been particularly vulnerable to the flu virus this year, with a higher rate of confirmed cases based on the percentage of the population.

“Every year, we get a different strain of influenza that goes around. This year, the predominant strain we’re seeing is H1N1,” Shahab said. “We’re seeing it affecting preschoolers at a higher level.”

Shahab said this strain first appeared in 2009 and was the dominant strain three years ago. Since then, it’s been H3N2, which tends to affect seniors.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has also reported 13 outbreaks of influenza in long-term care facilities.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that 414 children under the age of 16 had to be hospitalized due to influenza across Canada since September, including 71 who had to be admitted to the ICU.

Shahab said immunization rates for kids should be higher.

The doctor said only 35 per cent of children aged six months to 23 months have been immunized.

For kids aged three-to-five, only 24 per cent.

That rate drops even further to 19 per cent for children aged five to nine.

However, overall the province has given 278,000 doses of the vaccine, up eight per cent from last year.

These numbers don’t paint the full picture of influenza cases, because many people don’t require medical treatment or get tested. However, the flu virus can be particularly dangerous for young children, seniors, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

-With files from the Canadian Press

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