Flu activity begins to spike across country

The Department of Health also recommends that people take the necessary precautions during this flu season: wash or disinfect your hands frequently, cover any coughs and sneezes, stay home and call your health care provider if you are sick (especially with a fever).

As of December 29, the most recent data available from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows there were 13,796 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases across the country, with the provinces and territories reporting 1,046 hospitalizations and 24 deaths. Just 13 per cent of lab-confirmed flu cases were among children under four in Ottawa, compared with 47 per cent among seniors over 65. Rates, however, were higher among young children and the elderly (14.5 and 11.9 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, respectively), as these populations are more susceptible to complications of the flu.

However, these figures reflect only cases in which testing was performed; many more people who come down with the flu don't seek medical assistance and therefore aren't tested. (Lab-confirmed cases represent a small percentage of all flu cases, often just the ones that require hospitalization).

New Brunswick's peak might come somewhat sooner, as cases there began spreading in late November.

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Nor has CHEO seen the kind of spike in influenza-related hospitalizations among children being reported in other parts of the country, said spokesman Paddy Moore. Data suggests that more people got vaccinated earlier this year than they did last year, perhaps motivated by memories of the prior season.

However, this year's flu vaccine is a good match for circulating strains and the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from getting the flu. It was the deadliest in 40 years when less than half of Americans got vaccinated. "It's the best protection that we have to give people against the flu", said Russell, adding that children and adolescents, adults with underlying lung or heart conditions and the elderly should make sure they are immunized.

"It's not too late".

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