Sunday, 19 January, 2020

Peak flu season starting now and may last longer, says doctor

Gustavo Carr | 09 January, 2019, 20:25

As of the end of December, the rate of outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses (ILIs) had almost doubled from the national baseline, as the 2018-19 influenza (flu) season continues to see a variation of influenza A strains predominately affect the country.

Nor has CHEO seen the kind of spike in influenza-related hospitalizations among children being reported in other parts of the country, said spokesman Paddy Moore. Eighty-five per cent of children admitted to intensive care because of the flu are under the age of 10, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

"It is recommended that people still get the flu vaccination if they have not already", said infectious disease expert Dr. David Cennimo of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Every year in the US, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and the flu causes about 12,000 to 56,000 deaths each year, data shows.

A total of 188 serious flu complications, including 18 flu-related deaths, have been confirmed since October 1 previous year, he said, adding that 55 percent were infected with the H3N2 virus and 36 percent with the H1N1 virus.

Flu season is upon us again.

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The peak of the season is likely to be the Lunar New Year holiday, but the epidemic situation is expected to be relatively milder, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said. H3N2, the strain largely responsible for last year's outbreak, has so far been less common than the H1N1 strain.

Indeed it is. So if you haven't bothered to get a flu shot, do yourself and the rest of us a favor. "Get your flu shot and get protected".

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against the flu virus, so the earlier the shot is administered, the better.

First approved for ages 5-49, it was eventually also approved (in 2007) for children 2-4 years old.

Doctors say it could get worse. People who might have flu - particularly if they are in the groups listed above at risk for severe disease and complications - should seek medical care and start antiviral medication as soon as possible.

"Vaccination - although not flawless - still prevents many infections completely, and even if you get influenza having received the vaccine, your illness is much more likely to be milder, and you're less likely to get the complications of pneumonia and having to be hospitalized".