Canada is currently dealing with a serious flu outbreak, and experts say peak infections by a dominant strain of the virus could occur sometime within the next few weeks.
Two mutated strains are the root cause of the rise in cases - a superior influenza A strain named H3N2 which primarily targets the elderly, and a lesser B strain named B/Yamagata that affects adults and children.
The former is expected to cause peak infections through January, while the latter will peak starting the end of February and into the spring.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the concerted effort of both strains has caused 11,277 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu as of Dec. 30, with 70 per cent attributed to H3N2. Over 1,000 of those infected were hospitalized, and a total of 34 have died.
These figures, however, are not all-encompassing of the actual number of flu cases, as many people tend not to seek medical attention when they exhibit flu symptoms. In reality, such numbers may actually be even higher than reported.
Dr. Michelle Murti, a member of Public Health Ontario, tells the National Post that this year’s flu season is unusual compared to previous years. “We haven’t really seen a season quite like this in a little while,” she says.
Part of the reason why the outbreak is particularly bad this time around is because the vaccine administered this season is not very effective. Canada’s flu shot, which is the same one used in Australia, was only found to have 10 per cent effectiveness in combating H3N2.
It is advised that people with higher risk of complications, such as those with heart and lung conditions, should seek medical help if they develop flu-like symptoms. Antivirals can be prescribed and could be life-saving for more severe cases.