New Brunswickers health officials are advising that they prepare themselves for a potentially worse flu season this fall.
This includes getting a flu shot, which is expected to be available within the coming weeks.
“We know it over there [has] “Influenza has been low over the past two seasons, but we can expect more flu this year,” said Dr. Arif Rahman, deputy chief medical officer of health for the province.
With fewer people choosing to get a flu shot over the past two years due to a lull in flu cases, and the end of last spring for COVID-19 preventive measures, such as masking and physical distancing, more people are at an increased risk of catching the flu, according to experts.
The 2022 flu season in Australia also offers some clues as to what may be hiding in New Brunswick. The flu hits Australia first and infections there were above the five-year average – with the number of infections rising significantly, then declining, earlier than usual.
The flu wave in Australia coincided with the spread of this country First major wave of COVID-19 pandemicdubbed “twindemic”.
The prospect of such a double-dip increase could put more pressure on New Brunswick hospitals, which are already understaffed.
400 cases were reported during the summer
New Brunswick has already seen an extraordinary resurgence of influenza, with about 400 cases documented over the summer.
Normally, flu season really “takes off” in January and “fades away” once the warmer weather sets in, Dr. Yves Leger, deputy chief medical officer for health, told CBC News in May.
At that time, a total of 40 cases were documented during the season that began on August 29, 2021.
As of August 27, the end of the 2021-22 season, the number of reported cases has jumped to 442 – 179 influenza A (H3), 262 influenza A (non-type) and one influenza B, the latest statistics from Public Health show.
92 people were hospitalized during the season and five died.
In 2020-2021, only one case of influenza was reported across New Brunswick, with no hospitalizations and no deaths.
By comparison, in 2019-20, at the start of the epidemic, there were 2,351 cases at the district level. And in 2018-2019, pre-pandemic, 3008.
The flu-like consultation rate was “higher than expected” during the last two weeks of the 2021-22 season, at 64.9 per 1,000 visits and 46.5 per 1,000 visits, respectively, according to the county’s latest flu report.
The report stated that five outbreaks of influenza have been reported in nursing homes since the start of the 2021-22 season.
Officials said all the numbers were likely not reported. Although influenza is a reportable illness in New Brunswick, not everyone who gets sick should go to the doctor and get tested.
“As we know, seasonal flu can have serious health implications, so now is the time for a good reminder that flu vaccination is available,” Abdul-Rahman said.
“All New Brunswickers should get a flu shot to protect themselves and the people… around them.”
Anyone six months of age and older is eligible to get a flu shot.
The 2022-23 seasonal influenza vaccination campaign will be delivered by primary care providers, public health nurses, New Brunswick’s out-of-the-room health professionals, and pharmacists.
It may take up to two weeks before the vaccine provides protection against the flu.
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