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First West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes of the year confirmed in Peel Region – CP24



Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon residents are being reminded to protect themselves from mosquito bites and remove any standing water from their property after the first West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes of the year were confirmed in Peel Region.

The infected insects were recently collected from three traps in Brampton, near the intersections of Chinguacousy Road and Williams Parkway, Hurontario Street and Steeles Avenue, and The Gore Road and Cottrelle Boulevard.

Peel’s public health unit monitors West Nile virus activity through 33 mosquito traps set across the region. Trapped mosquitoes are collected and tested weekly from late June to September.

The health unit also surveys public areas for stagnant water that could serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes. Identified locations are treated with larvicide, they said in an Aug. 9 news release.

So far this year, there are no confirmed human cases of the mosquito-borne illness, which is passed to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, in the Region of Peel.

While the risk of acquiring the virus is low, the Region of Peel is urging people to protect themselves against mosquito bites by applying a Health Canada approved insect repellent containing an ingredient effective against mosquitoes, like as DEET or icaridin, to exposed skin and clothing.

They’re also advising people to wear light-colored, tightly woven, loose-fitting clothing like long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes, and socks to protect exposed skin and avoid shaded or wooded areas with high mosquito populations, especially at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

Residents should also ensure all windows and door screens fit securely and are free of tears and holes.

Further, people can help prevent mosquito bites by removing stagnant water or draining items on their property. Water stagnant for more than seven days is an ideal breeding site for mosquitoes, the region noted.

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Bad flu season predicted for B.C. – Kamloops This Week



After two years of record-low influenza rates, experts are warning the flu will likely be back in full swing this season.

That’s because of a general lifting of pandemic health measures, such as required masking, gathering size limits and travel restrictions, according to pharmacist Kim Myers.

“It definitely increases the spread of germs and colds,” said Myers, who works in the Greater Victoria area.

Health Canada estimates that in a non-pandemic year, about 12,200 Canadians are hospitalized with the flu or flu-like symptoms. Getting an exact number is difficult as only nine of the country’s provinces and territories report hospitalizations to the national flu surveillance system, FluWatch.

Flu hospitalizations dropped during pandemic

of those which do report — Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan — 5,176 influenza-related hospitalizations were reported during the 2017-2018 season and 3,657 were reported in 2018-2019.

During the 2019-2020 season, half of which occurred within the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 2,493 hospitalizations. That number dropped to zero in 2020-2021, again not including Ontario, Quebec, B.C. or Nunavut.

Myers said it’s hard to tell whether this year’s flu season will be as bad as pre-pandemic years, but that it will almost certainly be worse than the last year or two. She said the awareness the pandemic has raised around the importance of vaccines makes her hopeful more people will get the flu shot this year. Already, Myers said, people coming into her pharmacy are asking when shots will be available.

Possible correlation between COVID-19 and influenza vaccine uptake

B.C. did see a small spike in flu vaccine uptake in the first year of the pandemic. In 2018, 34.6 per cent of people got the shot, followed by 37.2 per cent in 2019 and 42.1 per cent in 2020, according to Statistics Canada. 2021 rates are not yet available.

A 2021 research paper published in medical journal Vaccine found the primary indicator of whether Canadians will get a vaccination is whether they have been vaccinated before, suggesting those who got the COVID vaccine may be more likely to get the influenza one.

More than 87 per cent of British Columbians have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine as of Sept. 26.

Beginning in early October, B.C. residents will have the option of receiving COVID vaccine boosters and flu shots at the same time. The province said it will have the capacity to vaccinate about 250,000 people per week that way.

Who is most impacted?

For the majority of people, the flu means up to a week of sickness, but for young children, elderly people and the immunocompromised the virus can make it significantly harder for them to fight off infections.

Health Canada said 3,500 deaths are influenza-related each year, although that number is based off a mathematical estimate, rather than actual yearly data.

Myers said the best thing people can do to stop the spread of the virus and protect those most vulnerable to it is to follow many of the same precautions put in place for COVID-19: get vaccinated, wash your hands, wear a mask, stay home if you’re sick and minimize your number of crowded public outings.

“It’s not just for themselves, it’s trying to do it for those around them who are vulnerable and for those who aren’t able to receive vaccines. It’s important that we try and do that to help protect them,” Myers said.

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Arm Yourself Against the 2022-23 Flu Season – Newswise



Newswise — LOS ANGELES (Sept. 28, 2022) — Amid the loosening of COVID-19 precautions and a sharp increase in flu cases in the Southern Hemisphere, Cedars-Sinai experts are warning the public to prepare for a bad flu season this year.

“Australia and New Zealand had their most severe flu season in five years,” said infectious disease specialist Soniya Gandhi, MD, associate chief medical officer at Cedars-Sinai. “We tend to see similar influenza patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, and while there is no guarantee that this will happen, it really highlights the importance of getting the flu shot this year.”

While people observed COVID-19 pandemic safety measures—like wearing face masks and washing hands frequently—during the past two years, the flu all but disappeared in the U.S. But this year could be different, as mask mandates have lifted, and more people are getting back to socializing.

“People are tired of respiratory viruses, and they’re trying to resume normal lives,” said infectious disease specialist Kimberly Shriner, MD, at Huntington Health, an affiliate of Cedars-Sinai. “I worry that since COVID-19 is beginning to settle down a little, there may be an impression that influenza will as well.”

Shriner and Gandhi spoke with the Cedars-Sinai Newsroom about what this flu season might bring and why it’s wise to be prepared and get a flu shot.

What concerns you about the current flu season in the Southern Hemisphere?  

Australia has a robust flu-tracking system, and their flu season, which runs from April to October, offers clues as to what’s in store for the U.S.

The flu wasn’t only severe in Australia this year—it came on fast.

“Influenza started circulating two months earlier than normal, and the largest number of cases were in children ages 5 to 9,” Gandhi said. “This really emphasizes that even young people should be getting their flu shot.”

The silver lining? Australia saw lots of influenza A (H3N2), a strain that’s included in this year’s vaccine, Gandhi said. While it’s too early to assess the vaccine’s effectiveness in the U.S., she said it’s reassuring to know that this strain of the virus is covered in the current vaccine.

What other factors could affect our upcoming flu season?

“We’ve been very protected these past two years, and we haven’t had an opportunity for the flu virus to circulate widely,” Shriner said. “But now, the masks are off.”

Because people were more isolated in recent years, immunity to the flu in the population declined. The combination of reduced immunity and relaxed safety measures means the public will be doubly vulnerable to a circulating respiratory virus.

“When you throw all of that into the mix, it’s not surprising that we may have the worst flu season we’ve seen in a while,” Gandhi said.

Why should people take the flu seriously?

Influenza is a serious illness, especially for the elderly and those who are immunocompromised, like cancer or transplant patients.

“The flu can kill up to 50,000 people annually, and that certainly is a concern we have about this impending season given our preview of coming attractions in the Southern Hemisphere,” Shriner said.

In the U.S., influenza typically circulates from November through April, coinciding with the winter holidays when people gather indoors, and when COVID-19 tends to surge.

“An influx of hospitalizations from COVID-19 and the flu could stress the healthcare system and impact staffing if many healthcare workers are out sick,” Gandhi said. “It’s yet another reason to get the flu shot and the new Omicron booster as well.”

Why get the flu shot?

The past two years have demonstrated the capacity of vaccines to prevent diseases and save lives. “We’ve seen that dramatically with COVID-19, and I think the same is true of influenza,” Shriner said. “Vaccination often helps the individual, but it also protects those who either cannot receive a vaccine or who won’t respond very well to it.”

By limiting the spread of flu and preventing severe illness, the flu shot also can help maintain hospital capacity, Gandhi said. She cited a recent study of adults that showed the flu vaccine reduced their risk of ICU admission by 26% and death by 31%. 

“The flu and COVID-19 vaccines are important on a personal level, and they’re critical from a public health standpoint,” Gandhi said.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: What’s the Difference Between a Cold, the Flu and COVID-19?

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Flu season returns in Waterloo region – CTV News Kitchener



Flu season has officially returned. Region of Waterloo Public Health confirmed its first two lab-confirmed cases of influenza on Wednesday.

Officials said in a news release that the flu is expected to circulate at elevated levels this fall and winter alongside COVID-19.

“The symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 and the common cold or are very similar. You can get a fever, cough, sneezing, muscle aches, body pain,” said Dr. Adelle-Lisa Chang On, with Region of Waterloo Public Health.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness is being advised by public health to:

  • Stay at home until you do not have a fever and your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if you had nausea, vomiting or diarrhea)
  • For 10 days after your symptoms started:
  • Wear a well-fitted mask in public spaces
  • Do not visit persons in hospitals, retirement/long-term care homes, or persons who may be at higher risk of illness (e.g., seniors and immunocompromised persons)
  • Seek medical attention for severe or worsening symptoms, or if in a high-risk group

Public health is urging the public to get the flu shot as soon as it is available, which will be in early October for those who are at high risk. In November the flu shot will be available to the general public.

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