As peak flu season arrives, Canadian hospitals seeing higher than usual pediatric cases – The Globe and Mail
An influenza strain that hits children hard is circulating widely in Canada, leading to increased pediatric hospitalizations, which experts say could worsen as we approach the peak of flu season.
Infectious disease experts say a type of influenza B is circulating at about the same rate as influenza A, which is not typical. In most years, influenza B doesn’t circulate until late in the season. This has experts on alert because this type of influenza is linked to a higher risk of hospitalizations and deaths among children.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s most recent FluWatch report, released Friday, says the increased presence of influenza B likely explains why pediatric illnesses and hospitalizations are higher this year. According to PHAC, the number of pediatric hospitalizations linked to influenza A this season is similar to previous years.
From Dec. 15 to Jan. 4, there were 258 pediatric hospitalizations linked to the flu reported by a national surveillance network that consists of 12 pediatric hospitals. PHAC said the number of cases is above the average seen in the previous five years.
Over all, there have been 370 pediatric hospitalizations linked to the flu in Canada so far this season. Of those, 54 per cent were tied to influenza B. About two-thirds of hospitalizations were in children under five years old. No flu-related deaths have been reported in children this season.
The particular type of influenza B that is circulating belongs to a family called the Victoria lineage, which is known to cause a higher rate of hospitalizations and deaths among children.
U.S. health officials say they are seeing a surge in flu cases and a much higher than usual number of pediatric flu hospitalizations and deaths. So far this flu season, 27 children have died in the U.S. as a result of the infection, with 18 of those cases being linked to the influenza B strain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nine deaths were linked to H1N1, which is an influenza A virus.
“Any time we see more influenza B, especially [the Victoria lineage], we will see more children be affected,” said Michelle Murti, a physician at Public Health Ontario. “Some proportion of those will either be hospitalized or die.”
Alyson Kelvin, a virologist at Dalhousie University and a member of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, said it’s quite possible the number of pediatric cases will continue to climb here, as they have in the United States. She said people who haven’t had their flu shot should still get one.
“I think it’s a good idea to be vaccinated, due to this evidence,” she said.
This year’s flu shot is not an exact match to the influenza B strain in circulation and experts don’t yet know how well the vaccine protects against the B strain, according to Dr. Murti. The good news, she said, is that the vaccine should still offer fairly good protection from influenza B, even if the shot isn’t matched to the virus.
Data showing how well this year’s flu shot match up to the circulating viruses won’t be available until next month, Dr. Murti said.
So far this year, 12,500 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu have been detected in Canada. But these cases only represent a portion of the total, as most are typically not verified by a lab.
Just more than half of the flu cases detected in Canada this year are linked to the influenza A virus. Of those, H1N1 and H3N2 are both circulating, with the amount of H1N1 increasing in recent weeks. The flu shot is well matched to the H1N1 virus, Dr. Murti said.
According to PHAC, there have been 230 adult hospitalizations, seven intensive care unit admissions and fewer than five deaths linked to the flu. Of those, 90 per cent have been linked to influenza A. The FluWatch report says that 87 per cent of influenza A hospital admissions were linked to H1N1.
Addictions counselling services expanded for Vancouver Islanders
People struggling with mental health and substance abuse can access up to 12 free counselling sessions per year in a new Island Health program.
Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair, says “This represents a significant expansion and investment in community-based counselling services to improve access to these services on Vancouver Island.”
Virtual Island-wide services will be available through Cognito Health, and Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centre. Services are also available in Port Hardy through North Island Crisis and Counselling Services and in Nanaimo through EHN Outpatient Services and Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Society.
The publicly-funded, community-based counselling is intended for people with moderate challenges. The new partnership with Island health will meet the counselling needs of at least 1,500 people per year.
Access to the counselling services is via referral or self-referral through Island Health Mental Health and Substance Use locations.
Lyme disease increased across Quebec in 2021: data – CTV News Montreal
Lyme disease in Quebec was back on the rise in 2021, following a brief slowdown in 2020.
According to data released earlier this week by Quebec’s public health institute (INSPQ), 709 cases of Lyme disease were reported to provincial health authorities as of April 6, 2022. Of those infections, 650 were likely acquired in Quebec, while the rest occurred elsewhere.
The rate of the disease in 2021 was 1.7 times higher than in 2019, the year with the second-highest recorded rate.
Of the 650 cases of Lyme disease acquired in Quebec, Estrie was again the most affected region. With 452 cases, it accounts for nearly 70 per cent of all infections in Quebec.
Authorities reported 124 cases in Montérégie.
The other regions, including Montreal, reported fewer than 20 cases.
The age group most affected by Lyme disease in Quebec in 2021 was 60-69, followed by 50-59, 40-49 and 70-79.
Lyme is transmitted through the bite of a tick carrying the disease.
The tell-tale symptom in humans is a reddening of the skin. Many with the disease experience fatigue, fever, aches and pains — and if the disease isn’t detected and treated quickly, the bacteria can disperse into the bloodstream, leading to much more uncomfortable symptoms.
According to the Quebec government, milder winters could partly explain the disease’s progression. The warmer climate allows ticks to survive and reproduce more easily.
Lyme disease has been a notifiable disease in Quebec since 2003, meaning doctors and laboratory technicians who detect a case must inform public health authorities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 9, 2023.
Aggressive, ‘drooling profusely’ moose has disease never seen in its species in Alaska – Yahoo Canada Sports
A moose that was acting aggressively toward people has been diagnosed with rabies, a first for Alaska, according to wildlife officials.
The moose, which was “stumbling, drooling profusely, and had bare patches of skin,” was found acting oddly in Teller on June 2, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a June 7 news release.
“That moose was being aggressive towards people and charging and getting a little bit too close to comfort for them,” Alaska Wildlife Biologist Sara Germain told KTUU-TV.
Before the moose’s carcass was burned, wildlife officials said they collected samples for testing, which showed “rabies virus in the brain.”
Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the virus in the moose was infected with was “an Arctic Fox rabies variant,” officials said. The variant stems from a winter rabies outbreak in Nome/Seward Peninsula and North Slope arctic foxes.
Wildlife officials said this suggests the moose contracted the disease from a fox.
“Due to the largely solitary nature of moose, it is very unlikely that any rabies outbreak will occur in the moose population, but isolated cases such as this one occur rarely,” officials said.
While rabies in moose is rare, some of the massive animals have been “diagnosed with rabies in South Dakota, Minnesota, Canada and Russia,” officials said.
The department said as a result of this rabies case that it plans to test “all brain samples from wild mammals found dead or euthanized from regions” known to have fox rabies, to better track the disease.
The public can help by calling the department if they find a dead animal or see any that with signs of rabies, which includes “excessive salivation, abnormal / aggressive behavior, bite marks,” officials said.
Though photos and videos can be helpful, it’s important to avoid contact “with a rabid animal or carcass,” officials said.
Rabies vaccines for dogs and cats is the best protection against the disease in people, according to officials.
“Likewise, preventing pets from interacting with foxes or other wildlife, and not leaving garbage or other attractants accessible to foxes and other wildlife, remain important,” the department said.
If someone is bitten by an animal that may have been exposed to rabies, “immediately wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention,” officials said.
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