Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Canada’s chief public health officer says more children are being hospitalized this flu season because of an early spike in a strain of influenza B, which hits young people hard and is circulating across the country, while a strain that typically targets the elderly also makes the rounds.

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later and the “double dose” of both influenza A and B strains has not been seen in Canada since 2015.

“Right now we have influenza A-H3N2, which is still predominant, but influenza A, another strain, H1N1, is escalating and influenza B is early so all of this is going on at the same time, which is certainly having an impact on different communities and individuals.”

Seniors are typically sickened by H3N2, Tam said, adding she does not yet know which strains were believed to have been linked to the deaths of two young people in Manitoba.

Blaine Ruppenthal, 17, is suspected of having died of complications from the flu, according to a letter sent to parents Monday by the principal of Kelvin High School in Winnipeg.

A spokeswoman for the provincial government cited privacy laws in declining comment on whether Ruppenthal had any pre-existing medical conditions.

Tam said the death of a 24-year-old patient in Manitoba is also believed to have occurred from similar issues.

Lab tests will be done to determine if the two cases were linked to the virus, the provincial government said in a statement.

Two other people, both over 80, have died in Manitoba from flu-related illness this season, the statement says.

“The flu is impacting younger people more this season than in previous years. Almost 200 influenza B cases are reported to date and almost all were below the age of 50. The influenza A cases reported to date are very low for this time of a season with more than half below the age of 50.”

NAVIGATING ‘FEVER PHOBIA’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Manitoba is urging all residents to get the flu shot, which it offers for free.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said two deaths believed to be related to flu were also reported in New Brunswick this year.

The latest report from FluWatch, the agency’s surveillance program of influenza cases, says 258 children in Canada, aged 16 and under, were hospitalized over a three-week period ending Jan. 4.

“The weekly number of cases in this period is above the average over the previous five seasons,” it says.

Alison Merton, director of Collingwood Neighbourhood House, which operates over two dozen child-care programs in Vancouver for infants to school-aged kids, said more children have been sick with the flu than in the past few seasons.

The program can’t require parents to get any immunizations for their children but she said not having the flu vaccine can impact families.

“We have siblings in different programs so typically if one family goes down it does affect multiple programs,” Merton said.

Flumist, a nasal spray version of the flu vaccine, is often given to children but a global shortage means it has not been available in Canada, Tam said, adding the vaccine is an alternative for anyone over the age of six months and pregnant women who get it also protect their babies.

She said that while the vaccine is the best defence against flu, only about 43 per cent of Canadians under age 65 were immunized last year, even if they were at risk of complications, compared with 70 per cent of seniors.

“What I’m more concerned about is that people with some chronic medication conditions, such as underlying heart disease or diabetes, are not getting vaccinated.”

Isobel Mackenzie, the advocate for seniors in British Columbia, said over 80 per cent of seniors in long-term care facilities, where the flu shot is offered, get immunized and 74 per cent of staff do, too.

“Where we need to do the work is in the public,” she said, adding people who visit the elderly in care homes are putting them at risk if they aren’t vaccinated.

“To protect grandma from getting the flu it’s actually more effective for you to get your flu shot,” she said.

Unlike most other provinces, B.C. does not provide the flu shot for free, except to people 65 and over, under 19 or if they fit into a broad category, such as if they tend to be around vulnerable people including children and the elderly.

“So why don’t we just say everybody can get it for free?” Mackenzie said. ”Everybody who wants it is figuring out how to get it for free anyhow.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Rosslanders celebrate Canada Day in style

Locals organized a museum scavenger hunt, a Mt. Roberts flag-raising ceremony and evening fireworks

Hwy 1 flooding causes massive delays on certain Arrow Lakes ferry routes

Motorists have been waiting around three hours to get on ferries

Rossland Museum and Discovery Centre expands operations online

The facility also opened back up to the public earlier in June

Mills oppose Celgar’s ask for cheaper logs destined for chipper

The Castlegar mill has asked the province for a lower rate for any log that goes straight to pulp

City of Rossland’s annual report focuses on infrastructure

The city released the report online last month

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Most Read