Flu cases continue to grow across the country, with children and teenagers weighing heavily on the dreaded winter insect, infectious disease experts say, predicting that the peak of the season will probably still be several weeks away.
This year's flu season has a very different profile from last year: it started earlier and the predominant strain of circulation A is H1N1, the viral type that caused the pandemic in 2009-2010 but has not shown up much in recent years. .
These previous seasons were dominated by H3N2, an influenza A strain that is particularly difficult in older adults and which usually carries a greater risk of complications such as pneumonia that can lead to hospitalization or death, said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, influenza epidemiologist and emerging respiratory pathogens in the BC Center for Disease Control.
In contrast, H1N1 tends to target children and young people more than the elderly – and flu trackers such as Skowronski say this season is no exception.
"This year, in particular, we expected that children under 19 years of age and non-elderly adults would be disproportionately affected … children because they are less likely to have protection (built-in immunity) from previous H1N1 epidemics."
In fact, BCCDC surveillance of laboratory confirmed cases of influenza shows that about one-third of all H1N1 detections so far this season have been in children 9 years of age or younger, although children in this age group represent only 20 %. of the population of the province.
While predominant H1N1 seasons tend to be milder at the population level compared to those characterized primarily by H3N2, individuals who are hit by one of the strains do not detect much difference – both cause fever, cough, general malaise, and muscle aches and joints, she said of Vancouver.
"I think this year we can anticipate that emergency rooms, outpatient visits will be greater because younger people are being affected by H1N1, but the overall impact of serious results should be lower this year compared to the last two seasons. "
As of December 29, the most recent data available from the Public Health Agency of Canada show that there were 13,796 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza across the country, with provinces and territories reporting 1,046 hospitalizations and 24 deaths. Most cases occurred in people under 65 years of age.
Last season, 11,275 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza had been reported.
The Canadian Press
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