Almost mid flu season

We are a little less than halfway through the winter flu season, which typically runs from October to May.

The season occurs during the cold half of the year in each hemisphere.

This year's flu strain is H1N1, and if that sound familiar it is because that particular strain proved to be quite dangerous in 2009. 

The strain spread across the globe and in Canada it carried a mortality rate of 1.3 per 100,000 population, according to Infection and Prevention Control Canada.

This year's strain is far less deadly, partly because it was anticipated. 

"We were expecting this," explains medical health officer Dr. Silvia Mema, of Interior Health. "This year, we anticipated the H1N1 based on what was going on in the southern hemisphere... they had the H1N1, so we were expecting that is what we would have."

Unlike the strain H3N2, which caused outbreaks in care facilities in the past two years, the H1N1 strain tends to affect younger people and adults on the younger side, not seniors. 

"It is a different demographic. We are not seeing that many seniors affected or outbreaks in nursing homes," explains Mema. "That is good because the seniors get really sick."

With that being said, it does not mean the H1N1 is not causing problems this flu season. 

"Although we are not seeing that many outbreaks in long-term care facilities or nursing homes, we are seeing an increase in the number of positive tests coming from the community," explains Mema. 

"Doctors are doing testing in their offices. The hospital is doing testing swabs and we are seeing a lot of tests coming from the community." 

Mema adds that indicates there is probably a lot of people who are sick from H1N1. 

According to the Government of Canada Fluwatch report, to date, this season 13,796 laboratory-confirmed influenza detections have been reported, with 99 per cent of those being H1N1.

The majority of lab confirmations and hospitalizations have been among individuals under the age of 65. 

Sixty eight per cent of all influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 detections have been reported in individuals younger than 45 years of age.

Sixty three per cent of all influenza A(H3N2) detections have been reported in adults 65 years of age and older.

"People often confuse influenza with the common cold, but they are not the same and are caused by different viruses. A cold is usually a milder illness that can make you uncomfortable for a few days," says Mema. "In contrast, flu symptoms are more debilitating, and potentially life-threatening to those at risk of complications."

With a little more than half of the flu season yet to come, Mema says there is still plenty of time and vaccine for those wanting to get a flu shot. 

To find an immunization clinic or pharmacy offering flu shots in your community click here

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