Canada continues to fight off a serious flu outbreak that has claimed as much as 120 lives so far this year.
Across the country, the death tolls are still rising as more and more serious cases are being reported. Flu-related deaths have climbed to 46 in Alberta, 17 in Manitoba and 27 in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as of last month. In Ontario, eight deaths have occurred in Windsor, nine in the Waterloo region and 19 in London (five of which occurred in a single week). Needless to say, this is no ordinary flu season.
It's a lot worse in the U.S. than in Canada - experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are saying it’s on track to becoming worse than the 2009 swine flu pandemic, which caused 34 million infections, 710,000 hospitalizations and 56,000 deaths that year.
The mutated strains, which consist of a dominant H3N2 virus and a lesser B/Yamagata virus, primarily target older individuals and younger children. Such demographics tend to be more susceptible to the flu, due to their declining and developing immune systems, respectively.
The heightened severity of this year’s flu season is partly due to a less people having received a flu shot this winter, as well as the lower effectiveness of the vaccine altogether. Canada’s flu shot, which is the same one used in Australia, was only found to have 10 per cent effectiveness in warding off the two strains.
How does the flu kill?
According to Dr. Buddy Creech, a paediatric infectious disease specialist, the flu can turn a person’s immune system against itself.
The phenomenon is called a “cytokine storm” and it involves the overproduction of immune cells in the lungs. This results in lung inflammation and buildup, which can lead to respiratory distress and pneumonia.
Be persistent with your doctor
In the U.S., two people have died from the flu after doctors deemed their cases not serious and sent them home, prescribing nothing but rest.
Infectious disease experts say that it’s possible for doctors to miss the signs, especially in a season like this where the strains may not necessarily be standard.
Those who feel they have serious symptoms should seek medical attention immediately and make well aware their concerns regarding the severity of their condition.
Doctors could prescribe a strong antiviral called Tamiflu, which inhibits a flu enzyme and prevents the sickness from spreading in the body. It can offer rapid relief of symptoms within 48 hours.