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China reports further fall in new virus cases, 118 deaths – northeastNOW

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By Canadian Press

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Feb 21, 2020

BEIJING — China reported a further fall in new virus cases to 889 on Friday as health officials expressed optimism over containment of the outbreak that has caused more than 2,200 deaths and is spreading elsewhere.

Containment of the illness has been a struggle far from the epicenter in central China as a major South Korean city urged residents to stay indoors.

New infections in China have been falling for days, although changes in how it counts cases have caused doubts about the true trajectory of the epidemic.

“The downward trend will not be reversed,” insisted Ding Xiangyang, deputy chief secretary of the State Council and a member of the central government’s supervision group said on Thursday.

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Doctors say flu starting to hit adults as hospitalization rates of seniors climb – Fort Frances Times

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Doctors say influenza spread is starting to hit older adults as surveillance levels indicate the hospitalization rate of seniors is not that far behind that of children.

Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada for the week ending Nov. 26 show that children under five still made up the highest number of hospitalized flu patients, but the rate at which people 65 years of age and older are hospitalized is also rising.

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Hospitalizations among both young children and seniors have increased sharply over recent weeks during a flu season that started earlier than usual.

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said he’s already seeing more seniors with flu as in-patients at Toronto General Hospital.

”We have, you know, a bit of a perfect storm with a monster influenza season that started early and rose quickly. We have subpar influenza vaccine uptake. And we have a health care system that is completely stretched,” Bogoch said.

Not all provinces report vaccine uptake before the season is over. Alberta is among the provinces that does — it says so far this season 22.5 per cent of Albertans have received an influenza vaccine, which is about the same uptake as this time last year.

Nationally, the Public Health Agency of Canada says uptake has been around 40 per cent for adults over the last two years.

Flu infections among adults will likely continue to rise, Bogoch said, noting that the influenza season normally peaks sometime in January, with cases dropping off through February and then petering out in the late winter.

“We’re already in a tough flu season and we probably have several more months of this to go.”

In most years, children tend to get the flu first and then bring it home to parents and grandparents, said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.

Quebec hospitals are “on the cusp” of seeing that impact, Oughton said.

A rise in adult cases overlapping with the surge in pediatric cases could add more pressure on a health-care system that is already dealing with staff shortages heading into the holiday season, he said.

Doctors are urging people to get the flu shot, noting it takes two weeks to take effect.

“We really are barrelling into that flu season right now and we need the protection from vaccines,” Oughton said.

“This is the time to get that done now.”

Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health and University Health Network in Toronto, said public health officials in Canada should have made an earlier push for people to get vaccinated against the illness.

Data coming out of Australia, where the flu season typically runs from May to October, showed a reason for officials here to be concerned, he noted.

“The reality is that I don’t think our public health response has been as robust as it should have been, in terms of really making it clear that if anything, with what we’ve seen in Australia, we’re going to be in for a rough season ahead.”

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s guide for this flu season said the influenza vaccine could be administered at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine for people aged five and older.

While that addressed earlier questions around whether there should be a 14-day wait between the two vaccines, Sinha said the guidance from NACI was not adequately conveyed to the public.

“I don’t think that really translated into a coherent set of actions, really making sure that there was good public awareness that these are the two vaccines that are available.”

That would alleviate the top reason for people not getting more than one vaccine — inconvenience, said Sinha, who is also director of health policy research at Toronto Metropolitan University’s National Institute on Ageing.

Manitoba is an example of a jurisdiction that provided some “winter wellness” information about the upcoming respiratory season and the need for people aged 65 and older to get the pneumococcal and influenza vaccines, and that they could be given together with the COVID-19 vaccine, he said.

However, there have been some “hassles” with people still having to get their flu and COVID-19 vaccines separately, Sinha said.

“My parents are both older adults living in Winnipeg. I was frustrated because when they went to go get their COVID-19 boosters this fall they weren’t given an opportunity to have their vaccines co-administered. My dad had to go to a pharmacy to get his influenza vaccine. And then my mom waited to go see her family doctor.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada says influenza causes an estimated 3,500 deaths every year.

“Together with pneumonia, influenza currently ranks as the eighth leading cause of death in Canada, and before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was Canada’s leading vaccine-preventable cause of death,” it says in its FluWatch report.

——–

This report has been produced with the financial assistance of the Canadian Medical Association. It has no say in editorial choices.

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At least five B.C. children died from influenza last month, as mortalities spike

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At least five children died last month in British Columbia from influenza as a rise of early season respiratory illnesses added strain to the beleaguered healthcare system.

The figure marks a departure from the average of two to three annual flu deaths among children in the province between 2015 and 2019, data from the BC Coroners Service shows.

“Public health is monitoring the situation closely and is reminding people of the steps they can take to protect themselves, their children and their loved ones against the flu,” the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said in a statement.

“It is important to know that death associated with influenza in previously healthy children continues to be rare.”

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The centre said it is aware of a sixth reported flu death among children and youth under 19, but it was not immediately clear why the sixth wasn’t included in the coroners’ figures.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the children who died included one who was younger than five years old, three who were between five and nine, and two adolescents who were between 15 and 19.

“Early findings indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness, which can be a complication of influenza,” Henry said in a statement Thursday.

The deaths in British Columbia suggest figures could tick up across the country given the common challenges facing health systems this respiratory season. Alberta has also recorded the deaths of two children with influenza so far this season.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of five to six kids died per flu season across Canada, data collected from 12 hospitals across the country shows.

The national data was collected between 2010 and 2019 by IMPACT, a national surveillance network administered by the Canadian Paediatric Association. It was included in a research paper published in March in “The Lancet Regional Health — Americas” journal that also found no deaths from the flu among children in either 2020 or 2021.

No one from either IMPACT or the B.C. Centre for Disease Control was immediately available for an interview.

On Monday, Henry said that after two years of low flu rates, mostly due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the province is seeing a “dramatic increase” in illness and it arrived sooner than normal.

She urged parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu.

On Thursday, British Columbia’s Health Ministry announced a “blitz” of walk-in flu clinics that will open across the province Friday through Sunday. Flu vaccines are free to all kids aged six months and older in B.C.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said getting the shot is particularly important for those at risk of severe outcomes, including those with chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, kidney or liver disorders and diseases, those with conditions that cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, those who need to take Aspirin for long periods of time and those who are very obese.

The BC Coroners Service said its data is preliminary and subject to change while investigations are completed.

The cases include those where influenza was identified as an immediate, pre-existing or underlying cause of death, or as a significant condition.

Henry said updates on pediatric influenza-related deaths will be posted weekly as part of the respiratory surveillance summaries on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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Six children in B.C. have died this season from flu-related illness: B.C. CDC – Vancouver Sun

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The number is high for a province where typically fewer than three children a year die from influenza.

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At least six children have died in B.C. this season from flu-related illness, with southern B.C. one of the hardest-hit regions in Canada in the national flu epidemic.

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The number of fatalities of children aged under 19 is high in a province where two children die from influenza in a normal year.

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Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, said it is a historic year for influenza in British Columbia.

“This is epic. … It’s a big, big deal,” said Conway. He said B.C. has already reached the number of flu cases it normally reports for an entire year, 4,000, in the early part of the season.

Reported cases do not capture all flu cases as only those that have positive tests, usually in a hospital setting, get reported.

In a normal year, two children might die, and they would usually have other health conditions.

Statistics compiled by Health Canada show that in addition to southern B.C., Alberta has had the most widespread flu activity.

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The flu had waned during the COVID-19 pandemic, but cases shot up as societies removed restrictions. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere had high flu numbers last summer, which is their winter.

Earlier this week, B.C. health officials warned that after two years of COVID-19 restrictions, young children and other vulnerable people are at higher risk of getting very sick from the flu this season.

The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said this year’s strain — influenza A or H3N2 — has been tough on younger kids, sometimes leading to secondary infections that cause serious complications and, in rare cases, “tragic outcomes.”

B.C. health officials had not initially released information about the six deaths, but they have since been confirmed by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and Health Minister Adrian Dix. The B.C. Coroners Service says they are investigating five deaths of children under 19 in November where influenza was suspected.

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Asked by reporters on Wednesday if pressures on the health-care system contributed to the children’s death, Dix said the issue is influenza.

“It’s devastating news for families. It shows the significant dangers the flu can have for many children,” said Dix.

In a statement, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said early findings of the six deaths indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness, a known, but rare complication of influenza.

At least two families of children who died from complications of the flu have spoken publicly, one saying their child developed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and another saying their child developed a bacterial infection after a case of strep turned septic.

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Community fundraisers have been set up for the two families in Richmond and Kelowna — the Cabana and Loseth families — who lost daughters, ages six and nine.

In an email, spokesman Heather Amos of the Centre for Disease Control said: “It is important to know that death associated with influenza in previously healthy children continues to be rare.”

Surveillance information compiled by Health Canada shows the flu season has started earlier than in previous years and has seen a rapid ramp-up. In previous years, cases have eventually plateaued and then dropped off as the weather warmed in the spring.

A University of B.C. epidemiologist, Sarah Otto, said the flu is largely tracked through this surveillance data and then compared to previous years to determine severity.

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Through the COVID-19 pandemic, epidemiologists have used computer modelling to forecast the progress of the coronavirus.

Those same methods are not used to project how influenza will behave in the future, so it’s difficult to predict when it will peak, said Otto, a zoologist who specializes in mathematical modelling.

“Right now, we are seeing it (the flu) skyrocket. But is that going to turn around in the next week? I don’t think we have a very good … prediction tool box,” said Otto.

Both Otto and Conway stressed the best thing that people can do to protect themselves from the flu and minimize getting seriously ill is to vaccinate themselves and their children. The flu shot is free and available at pharmacies, clinics and doctors’ offices.

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In addition, they said people should stay home if they are unwell, wash their hands — “obsessively,” said Conway — and wear masks in indoor settings.

With a file from Katie DeRosa

ghoekstra@postmedia.com

twitter.com/gordon_hoekstra


Vaccine blitz

Health officials are launching a vaccine blitz in a bid to get children and families protected before the holidays.

Several health authorities will be offering walk-in influenza immunizations this weekend.

People who want to get a flu shot can just go to the pop-up clinics, without calling ahead or making an appointment. They also don’t need to register on the province’s Get Vaccinated system, unless they prefer to make an appointment.

For clinic locations, visit your health authority’s website:

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Vancouver Coastal Health
Fraser Health
Island Health
Interior Health
Northern Health 

The clinics can also dispense COVID-19 vaccine shots at the same time. The vaccines are free for everyone six months and older.

ticrawford@postmedia.com

— with files from Joe Ruttle and The Canadian Press


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