(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

Nine fires burning in West Kootenay

All fires considered to be lightning caused.

PHOTOS: Castlegar swimmers at Trail meet

Castlegar swimmers took part in the Greater Trail Stingrays meet last weekend.

Castlegar mayor releases FCM itinerary

Bruno Tassone delivers promised report on activities at Quebec City municipal conference

Castlegar watering restrictions start this week

No watering or car washing allowed between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Fish free on Family Fishing Weekend

Family Fishing Weekend events take place June 14 to 16 with organized events in the Kootenays.

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Most Read