CHEO warns flu surge to continue until mid-January

CHEO is warning of a difficult holiday season as the number and severity of cases of the flu and respiratory viruses surge in the capital.

New numbers released from CHEO show children and youth are coming through the hospital in record numbers this fall.

The hospital says since September, the regional lab at CHEO has identified 992 cases of influenza, a record number. In November alone, the children’s hospital admitted 73 influenza cases, the highest number aside from one month during H1N1 in 2009. The hospital also saw the most ever admissions for RSV in a single month at 149 cases.

Dr. Chuck Hui, Chief of Infectious Diseases, Immunology and Allergy at CHEO says, “It is actually quite stunning because it’s two to three times what we would normally seen in peak year. The only time we have more cases of influenza was in H1NI, which was a whole different pandemic on its own.”

Hui says the ICU and hospital continue to feel unprecedented demands. “CHEO is at overcapacity, and has been since in early the fall. Influenza arrived early last month and all indicators show that there is steep, steep rise in influenza in the community right now.”

After a surge in RSV earlier this fall, the flu is now making up most cases at the hospital. “The vast majority right now of what we are seeing are influenza, those are the patients on the floor and also in the ICU.”

Hui says many children admitted are under the age of five.

With the holidays only two weeks away, the hospital says pace and volumes are not expected to slow, and warn cases could increase.

“The numbers are going up and continue to go up,” Hui says. “We expect that the numbers will continue to go up and we won’t see light at the end of the tunnel until mid-January.”

Hui says the flu can be much more severe in children. Across all ages there are 12,000 hospital admissions per year in Canada and 3,500 deaths every year.

Hui says flu symptoms include, “high fever, a cough muscle pains, shivering like you are really cold and can’t get warm, and it feels like you have been hit by a truck.”

Hui is encouraging people to get their flu shot and says this year’s flu shot is a great match for influenza this year.

“[It] will provide good protection for yourself and your loved ones against severe disease.”

It is a message echoed by Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches

“Influenza is definitely here and the level in high in Ottawa, and it is expected to stick around for the coming month,” Etches says. “The most important message is it is not too late to get your flu shot, whether you are six months or an older adult.”

For locations and to book an appointment with Ottawa Public Health Flu Immunization Clinics, visit the OPH Flu Immunization Online Booking System.

Pharmacies can provide flu vaccines to children aged 2 years and older. See the list of participating pharmacies: Influenza (Flu) Participating Pharmacies – Ottawa Public Health

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