One person has died from the flu this season, Manitoba Health has confirmed, but the families of two other young people say their deaths were due to complications arising from the infectious virus.
Blaine Ruppenthal, a Grade 12 student at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, died Monday after suffering medical complications, according to a family member.
Joanne Ens, 24, from Morden, Man., died Jan. 6 after battling the flu since New Year’s Day. She contracted a bacterial infection that she was unable to recover from, her family said. She suffered from asthma as well.
Manitobans might be concerned following the news of these deaths. Here’s what health-care experts have to say about influenza.
How many people die every year in Manitoba from flu-related complications?
So far this flu season, the province has confirmed one influenza-related death, but Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said there’s sometimes a delay in receiving reports of deaths and sharing them with the public.
The timing and intensity of the flu during any given season — defined as the period between November and May — can vary, a spokesperson for the province said in an email to CBC News.
There were 18 flu-related deaths reported during the 2018-19 flu season, but the number varies considerably year to year, according to figures from the province:
- 2013-14: 9
- 2014-15: 48
- 2015-16: 22
- 2016-17: 12
- 2017-18: 46
“We do see severe outcomes every year with the flu, unfortunately, and this year will be no exception,” Roussin said.
There are cases of young people becoming ill and having severe symptoms, but it’s not very common, he said.
What are common flu symptoms and how should they be treated?
Most people with the flu have a fever, cough and muscle aches and pains within the first one to four days after being exposed to the virus, Health Canada says.
Health authorities recommend you stay home when you get sick and avoid close contact with other people until you’re well enough to get back to your regular day-to-day activities.
People infected with the flu virus can spread it to other people until approximately five days after they first show symptoms.
Rest, fluids and medication to reduce fever or aches can be used to treat symptoms.
Sometimes flu symptoms can be more serious and require medical attention.
When should you go to the hospital?
Health Canada says people with the flu should go to the hospital immediately if they develop any of these serious symptoms:
- Shortness of breath, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing.
- Chest pain.
- Bluish or grey skin.
- Bloody mucus or spit.
- Sudden dizziness or confusion.
- Severe or persistent vomiting.
- High fever lasting more than three days.
- Low blood pressure.
The flu can sometimes lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, worsening of chronic health conditions and even death.
Should Manitobans be worried?
People living in the province should be alert to the impacts of the flu, Roussin said.
“I think that the message is that the flu is concerning every year and so we unfortunately see severe outcomes every year.”
Flu seasons are becoming longer, he said.
Another concern is that the influenza B strain is increasing at a higher rate than normal, according to the latest report from the province, which can cause serious problems.
“It’s usually [influenza] A that we see circulating, but B can cause significant illness,” Roussin said, particularly in those under 15.
People with serious diseases, those over 65, people who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, children under five and pregnant women are at high risk of complications from the flu, the federal government says.
What’s the best thing Manitobans can do to protect themselves from the flu?
The flu shot is No. 1, Roussin said.
“We always try to get the message out about the flu vaccine that the flu vaccine is safe, and it’s the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.”
It’s not too late to get the flu vaccine, although it’s ideal to get it before the flu season is in full swing, he said.
“We’re still encouraging Manitobans to get that flu shot. It’s safe and that’s the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu and these serious complications.”
Health Canada recommends everyone over six months get the vaccine. It’s especially important for people who are at high risk for complications and for those who are in close proximity to those at high risk.
Currently, only 22 per cent of Manitobans are vaccinated, according to government statistics.
Hospitals in Saskatchewan face prolonged COVID-19 crisis, modelling shows
COVID-19 patients will keep crowding hospital intensive care units (ICUs) in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan well into next year without government orders to limit public mixing, modelling data showed on Wednesday.
As the pandemic ebbed during the summer, the western farming and mining province lifted restrictions at the fastest rate in Canada along with neighbouring Alberta. Saskatchewan has since become the country’s COVID-19 hotspots, with the lowest vaccination rate among provinces, and had to hastily reimpose restrictions such as masking in indoor public places.
“I have no shame in pleading to the public, that we’ve gone so far and we just have to pull along for the next weeks and months,” said Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, who broke down with emotion during a media briefing. “It is distressing to see what is happening in our ICUs and hospitals and I’m sorry — it’s a very challenging time.”
The pandemic’s spread has forced Saskatchewan to fly some COVID-19 patients to Ontario for care and to cancel thousands of surgeries.
Saskatchewan’s modelling showed that severe cases will continue to overwhelm ICUs until March before beginning to decline, without a reduction in mixing, such as smaller gatherings, and greater access to vaccine booster shots. Reduced mixing should ideally last at least 28 days, Shahab said.
The provincial government, led by Premier Scott Moe, has declined to impose limits on private gatherings, however.
Canada’s daily case counts spiked in late summer, but have declined recently. Cases in Saskatchewan and Alberta have also started trending lower, however they have still recorded the highest rates of deaths among the 10 provinces in the past week, and the highest rates of active cases.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by David Gregorio)
SHA says COVID-19 protocols prevented a flu season last year – moosejawtoday.com
The Saskatchewan Health Authority says last year’s flu season was prevented thanks to masks, physical and social distancing, and increased hand washing.
Dr. Tania Diener, the COVID-19 Immunization Co-Chief at the province’s Emergency Operations Centre, says that, “We effectively didn’t have a flu season here last year.”
With restrictions slowly lifting from a population feeling the stress of isolation and public health measures, the province is uncertain about whether or not a flu season will return this winter.
Dr. Diener emphasized that, “Our hospitals are already under strain due to the number of cases of COVID-19, especially among those who are unvaccinated, due to the new Delta variant. A further influx of people sick with influenza would further strain those resources, so we’re asking everyone to get their flu vaccine again this year.”
SHA says they have enough evidence at this point to conclude that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine together is safe, and they encourage everyone able to do so to get both vaccines as soon as possible.
This year’s flu vaccine is quadrivalent, meaning it protects against four different flu variants, an improvement from last year’s, which was trivalent.
Information on this year’s flu vaccine can be found here.
Those looking to book their flu and/or COVID-19 vaccine can go to 4flu.ca.
SHA’s full press release can be found here.
Province says flu shots prevents serious illness, deaths – My Comox Valley Now
The province wants you to roll up your sleeves for another kind of vaccine as we head into flu season.
Health officials are hoping you will take their advice and get a flu shot, which is free for everyone in B.C. older than six months.
They say the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it has put on the health-care system continue to make influenza immunization a priority.
“All British Columbians should get vaccinated against influenza to protect themselves and their loved ones from serious illness, to reduce the strain on our hard-working health workers and to do our part to make sure the health system continues to be there for people who need it, where they need it and when they need it,” said health minister Adrian Dix.
“I’m grateful to all of our health-care workers, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners and others for how they help people get immunized to protect themselves and those they care about.”
Seasonal influenza and other respiratory viruses will be in communities alongside COVID-19 this fall and winter.
The province says it “has the potential to escalate pressures already faced by the health-care system, particularly if the effects from COVID-19 and seasonal influenza occur are the same.”
That is why vaccines are now available and the province continues to increase vaccine accessibility through many locations and vaccine providers throughout B.C.
“This year, it’s especially important for people to get vaccinated against influenza. Last year’s low influenza rates means our immunity against influenza is lower than usual,” said provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“Getting your influenza vaccine this year is more important than ever to protect yourself, your community and our overstretched health-care system.”
Pharmacies around B.C. have played a key role in providing easy access to influenza vaccines since 2009.
This year, vaccines are available to pharmacies through a direct-distribution model.
This means pharmacies are able to order them directly from distributors, which the province says makes “influenza immunization easier and more flexible for people in B.C.”
“Pharmacists played a key role in helping people get immunized against COVID-19 earlier this year and administered the majority of influenza doses last year,” said Geraldine Vance, CEO, B.C. Pharmacy Association. “We’re proud of the role we continue to play in protecting our health-care system and keeping everyone safe.”
Flu vaccines have been available already for certain high-risk groups.
As they become available more broadly to the public throughout the province, you’re asked to check their health authority’s website or call their health-care provider or pharmacist to check for availability and to make an appointment.
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