Public Health Canada says that the number of people stricken by flu continues to rise across the country, with 15,572 laboratory-confirmed cases for the season as of Jan. 6.
Last year, there were far fewer cases, with 8,976 reported by the end of the first week of January 2017.
The level of influenza activity is “in the higher range of expected levels for this time of year,” the agency said in its latest FluWatch report, released Friday.
The majority of cases continue to be the H3N2 subtype of Influenza A, a particularly brutal strain that tends to cause more severe illness, particularly among the elderly and children.Know more about Flu(Influenza).
Influenza B is “increasingly steadily,” the report says, with 20 times more detections so far this season than for the same time period in the last seven years. The B strain started circulating much earlier than usual, the public health agency said.
The flu is affecting people over 65 years of age the most and there have been 54 reported flu deaths in Canada this season, the FluWatch report said. Fewer than five of those deaths were children.
There have been 1,850 reported hospitalizations — 68 per cent of which have been seniors.
H3N2, which is the dominant flu in both Canada and the U.S., is prone to mutation, which can make the vaccine against it less effective — even though it appears the virus strain was correctly predicted.
Experts, including Canada’s chief public health officer, have said that, although it’s too early to tell for sure, the H3N2 component of this year’s vaccine may have mutated during the manufacturing process, making it less effective.