Saskatchewan chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab is stressing the need for more people to get vaccinated against influenza.
Cases of the seasonal flu have surpassed those of COVID-19, according to the latest Community Respiratory Illness Surveillance Program (CRISP) report released by the province Thursday.
We didn’t see [the flu] too much over the last two years,” said Dr. Shahab. “Now it’s coming back with a vengeance.”
Influenza increased from 68 cases in late October to 635 in the current week with a test positivity rate of 34.2 per cent. With a vaccination rate of just 19 per cent, Dr. Shahab is stressing the need for vaccination this season.
“It’s not high enough to keep our numbers down,” he said. “More importantly, influenza can be a serious illness, especially if you’re under the age of five or have underlining health conditions.”
“We’re doing a poor job in high-risk groups, especially for vaccination,” said Dr. Rupesh Chawla, a paediatric infectious disease specialist. “And remember, if you are getting vaccinated, you’re also protecting that high-risk population around you.”
Influenza hospitalization and ICU admissions increased with the majority of cases in children under 19 (37 per cent) or adults over 60-years old. (40 per cent).
Chawla said this was to be expected based on what happened during flu season in places like Australia.
“We knew that who got sick was school-aged children,” he said. “[They] were the ones most admitted to hospital and had the worst problems.”
Dr. Chawla believes three things attributed to the increase in cases: the poor vaccination rate; children’s increased ability to spread germs; a drop in simple respiratory health measures, like hand washing or coughing into your arm.
“The problem is that’s when things often get the worst,” he said. “When we start to lose that aspect that, ‘this is an important thing to do,’ we see those things increase.”