At least one death locally linked to the flu

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KAWARTHA LAKES-There has been at least one death in the Kawartha’s linked to the recent flu outbreak, however, we might never know exactly how deadly this flu season has become after changes to provincial standards that began on January 1st. “Public Health Units are not required to monitor flu-related deaths in the community anymore as of new changes to the provincial standards that took effect Jan. 1/18. Brittany Cadence , Peterborough Public Health told Kawartha 411.

Meanwhile other provinces continue to monitor deaths. In Alberta Public Health reported there have been 31 deaths so far this year. In BC, Public Health says there has been at least 54 deaths so far this season, while Manitoba Public Health reports 17 deaths.

The Ministry says they are still monitoring deaths linked to the flu. “To increase the overall efficiency and effectiveness of influenza surveillance across the province, the ministry implemented a new process for monitoring hospitalizations and deaths for the 2017-2018 influenza season using information from existing data sources.” said David Jensen of the Ministry of Health. “Public health units are no longer required to keep track of flu hospitalizations and deaths.This new process ensures a more sustainable approach to gathering hospitalization and death information related to seasonal influenza strains, and was implemented as part of the ministry’s ongoing process of refining influenza surveillance in the province.”

Jensen says all health units have access to these new information sources to monitor influenza related hospitalizations and deaths within their jurisdiction.

Local health officials say we are in a community-wide flu outbreak but most cases go unreported. So far in the Peterborough area there have been 100 lab-confirmed cases of the flu, sporadic cases (not connected to an outbreak): 37 influenza strain A, 42 influenza strain B, and one case of strains A&B and  outbreak cases (in long-term care facilities): 18 strain A and 2 strain B. “There are many more cases circulating in the community who are not seeking medical attention because they are able to weather the illness at home.  So this number is just the tip of the iceberg.” Cadence says.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit reports 43 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in its area (Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes) so far in the 2017/2018 flu season. This total includes lab-confirmed cases of clients in the community, as well as lab-confirmed cases associated with outbreaks at local long-term care facilities. “We are seeing the bulk of local influenza cases this year affecting people 65 years and older. This isn’t unusual from past flu seasons, but what we should remember is that older adults can be more at risk from suffering severe complications from the flu.” Marianne Rock, the Health Unit’s Manager of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control.told Kawartha 411. “That makes it even more important for all of us to take precautions against the flu, and reduce the potential spread of illness to our older parents, grandparents and other loved ones.”

Cadence says there’s more than one strain of the virus circulating in the area. “My medical colleagues are telling me this is an unusual flu season in that both strain A and B are circulating at the same time. In a typical flu season A appears first, followed by some cases of the B strain later in the season. This is not the case this year as both strains are showing up in lab-confirmed cases, and this tell us that the quadrivalent (four-strain) vaccine offers the best protection since it contains two strains of A and two B strains.”

To reduce the spread of flu, the Health Unit recommends:

  • Get a flu shot. Flu vaccines are recommended for anyone six months of age and older, and are still available through local pharmacies and health care providers.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often, sneeze and cough into sleeves, and stay home from school and work if sick.
  • Eat well, get sufficient sleep and be physically active on a regular basis to help keep the body’s immune system strong and able to fight illnesses like flu.