January 18, 2014 - The Public Health Agency of Canada states that as of January 20th, H1N1 accounts for almost 96% of lab-confirmed cases of flu-related hospitalizations. Adults aged 20 to 64 accounted for the highest number of hospitalizations last December at 53%, followed by children under five years of age at 22%. The United States has similar results where H1N1 is causing severe respiratory infections among young and middle-aged adults.
As of January 6th, Alberta reported over 1,430 confirmed cases of flu of which 1,300 are due to H1N1 including 354 hospitalizations and 83 people admitted to intensive care. Nine H1N1 deaths were reported in Alberta and another six H1N1-related deaths were reported in Saskatchewan.
While the flu typically peaks between January and March, CDC states they will not know when the H1N1 hits its peak until it actually passes – so, it's not too late to get the flu vaccine. The CDC recommends that all people from the age of 6 months and older get a flu vaccine, including pregnant women.
You Can Reduce the Spread of Illness
- Wash your hands with soap and water
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing
- Stay at home when you are sick
Symptoms of flu include fever, aches, chills and lethargy, which come on suddenly. During the first 48 hours of contracting the flu, doctors can prescribe antiviral medications like Tamiflu and Relenza, which can reduce the severity of the disease helping to prevent some of the more serious side effects and complications that lead to hospitalization.
In 2011, flu shots were available free to anyone aged six months and older in Ontario but only 32% reported receiving one — fewer than those vaccinated in 2003, according to an Ipsos Reid survey conducted for the Quebec and British Columbia Lung Associations. Quebec had the lowest vaccination rates at 27%, and B.C. the highest at 52%.
Overall, seasonal flu accounts for about 20,000 admissions to hospital each year in Canada, and between 4,000 and 8,000 deaths.
H5N1 is an avian form of influenza that circulates in birds but mainly poultry. Unlike H1N1 and other seasonal flu viruses, “this is not a disease that is transmitted between humans, so unless you were in an affected area and in contact with an infected bird you’re not going to get this illness,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Director General of the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Public Health Agency of Canada. It is improbable that people will get H5N1 unlike H1N1, which spreads among people that are not immunized.
"Regardless of wide spread rumours, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot."
Dr. Jeff Kwong, Scientist at
the Institute for Clinical
While the vaccines are not 100% effective a well known study led by University of Minnesota researchers who analyzed nearly half a century’s worth of data found flu vaccines offer moderate protection from the flu — 59% for vaccines made from inactivated or 'killed' virus and about 83% for the nasal spray version of live attenuated vaccines in children six months to seven years of age.
Some people refuse the vaccine over safety fears but Dr. Jeff Kwong, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, states that the most common side effects are a sore arm or mild aches.
"Regardless of wide spread rumours, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot," said Dr. Kwong.
During the 2012-2013 flu season, 169 children died. H1N1 was responsible for the 2009 'swine' flu pandemic that killed more than 200,000 people worldwide.