Hamilton flu cases climbing as virus nears peak season

Over 25 Hamiltonians have been hospitalized during this influenza season
A flu map with Ministry of Health data shows Hamilton in the orange – that means the city is experiencing elevated seasonal flu levels and could be reaching its peak. (Esri, DeLorme, NAVTEQ)

The City of Hamilton says 25 people have been hospitalized with serious cases of the flu this winter, and that number could climb as the virus approaches its predicted mid-January peak. 

There have been 77 lab confirmed cases of influenza to date during this year's flu season, public health program manager Gayane Hovhannisyan told CBC Hamilton. Of that number, 70 cases were what the city calls Influenza A, also known as H1N1. 

Last winter, for the entire flu season, Hamilton had 634 confirmed cases of influenza. That flu season peaked early, with over 300 cases being reported in December. 

Hovhannisyan said it's too soon to say if this year's flu season has peaked, but said emergency room visits for influenza-like illnesses has declined slightly since Christmas. 

Hovhannisyan repeated her call for people to get vaccinated against the flu. She said there is a "good match" between this year's vaccine and the flu virus going around, meaning you'll be well protected against the illness if you get it. 

According to public health data for Ontario, represented by this interactive map, Hamilton's flu levels are currently elevated and possibly nearing a peak. Nationally, Ontario has experienced localized increases in flu cases, but the situation is worse in Alberta, where 10 people between the ages of 18 and 64 have died from the flu and over 300 have been hospitalized.

The H1N1 flu strain is the most common this season, but there are several other versions of the virus also going around. 

Hovhannisyan says you can can reduce your chances of getting the flu by doing the following:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Quickly dispose of used tissues
  • Cough or sneeze into your shirt sleeve
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick, and encourage others to do the same

And you can get a free flu shot at the doctors office, or at a local pharmacy. There are some 100 pharmacists in Hamilton giving out flu shots in Hamilton.