(File)

Kids and teens vulnerable as Canadian flu cases start to surge

This season began earlier than last, and the predominant circulating A strain is H1N1

Cases of influenza are continuing to ramp up across the country, with kids and teens bearing much of the brunt of the dreaded winter bug, say infectious diseases experts, predicting that the peak of the season is likely still several weeks away.

This year’s flu season has a far different profile than last year’s: it began earlier and the predominant circulating A strain is H1N1, the viral type that caused the pandemic in 2009-2010 but hasn’t made much of an appearance for the last few years.

READ MORE: Know how to recognize the flu, and know what not to do

Those previous seasons were dominated by H3N2, an influenza A strain that is particularly hard on older adults and which typically carries a higher risk of complications like pneumonia that can lead to hospitalization or death, said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, epidemiology lead of influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens at the BC Centre for Disease Control.

In contrast, H1N1 tends to target children and younger adults more than seniors — and flu-trackers like Skowronski say this season is no exception.

“This year in particular, we have expected that children under 19 years of age and non-elderly adults will be disproportionately affected … children because they are less likely to have protection (built-in immunity) from prior epidemics of H1N1.”

Indeed, the BCCDC’s surveillance of lab-confirmed cases of flu show that about one-third of all H1N1 detections so far this season have been in children nine years of age or younger, even though kids in that age range make up just 20 per cent of the province’s population.

While H1N1-predominant seasons tend to be milder overall at the population level compared to those characterized primarily by H3N2, individuals who get hit with either strain won’t detect much of a difference — both bring on fever, cough, general malaise and achy muscles and joints, she said from Vancouver.

“It’s a different season, different profile. I think this year we can anticipate that emergency rooms, out-patient visits will be greater because younger people are being affected by H1N1, but the overall impact of serious outcomes should be less this year compared to the last couple of seasons.”

As of Dec. 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. Most cases occurred in people under age 65.

Last season at that point, 11,275 cases of lab-confirmed flu had been reported.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Fayant receives a new lease on life from weight loss

Shedding that inner person on the verge of dying brings dramatic change

New rowing centre may lead to solutions to Quamichan Lake’s algae problem

National focus could lead to more resources to deal with issue

Fuller Lake skaters showcase their talents

Cowichan Lake and District Skating Club hosts Cowichan Valley Showcase

Home care complaints up 45% on Vancouver Island

Number of home care hours delivered down 6%, complaints up 45 %

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Why would the B.C. legislature need a firewood splitter?

First sign of police involvement in investigation of top managers

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Judge annuls hairdresser’s forced marriage to boss’ relative

Woman was told she’d be fired if she didn’t marry boss’s Indian relative so he could immigrate here

Liberals look to make home-buying more affordable for millennials: Morneau

Housing is expected to be a prominent campaign issue ahead of October’s federal election

Cannabis-carrying border crossers could be hit with fines under coming system

Penalties are slated to be in place some time next year

Man accused of threatening to kill ‘as many girls as I see’

Christopher W. Cleary wrote he was angry because he’d never had a girlfriend and wanted to ‘make it right’ with a mass shooting

Canadian talent abound on newly revamped Vancouver Whitecaps squad

Lineup is full of new faces after the organization parted ways with 18 players over the off-season

Most Read