H1N1 makes up more than 90% of flu cases in Quebec so far

This year's flu season is just like any other, says Quebec Director of Public Health Horacio Arruda — even if the majority of the 969 cases already reported are H1N1.

Flu season is business as usual, says Public Health Director Horacio Arruda

More than two million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed in Quebec so far this year, though the health ministry does not yet know how many have actually been administered. (Radio-Canada)

This year's flu season is just like any other, says Quebec's Director of Public Health Horacio Arruda — even if the majority of the 969 cases already reported are H1N1.

“We are not in a pandemic situation," Arruda said Tuesday afternoon.

He said that since the 2009 outbreak of H1N1, people have had the chance to build up a resistance to the strain, meaning it's far less deadly than it was five years ago.

However, it is spreading quickly.

Forty cases of the H1N1 strain of influenza were reported in the Eastern Townships on Monday, and the number of cases of influenza province-wide was pegged at 969 on Tuesday afternoon.

Arruda said more than 90 per cent of reported cases of the flu are H1N1.

Flu season is expected to peak between late January and mid-February.

This year's flu vaccine contains the H1N1 strain, so if you've already been vaccinated in the 2013-2014 flu season, you do not require another vaccine.

Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert is encouraging people who haven't yet received their vaccine to get it as soon as possible, particularly people in the following groups:

  • Children 6 to 23 months old.

  • People with certain chronic illnesses such as asthma and emphysema.

  • Pregnant women in their second or third trimester, and pregnant women with chronic illnesses at any stage of their pregnancy.

  • People aged 60 and over.

  • People who live or work with members of the above-mentioned groups.

  • Healthcare workers.

Hébert said this year’s strain of H1N1 is not more severe or virulent, but it is a virus that everyone should take very seriously.

Quebec Public Health Director Horacio Arruda says H1N1 may be prevalent this year, but people are much better equipped to deal with it now than they were in 2009. (CBC)

“It is an important disease that can be fatal,” he told CBC Montreal Daybreak host Mike Finnerty Tuesday morning.

Approximately 300 people die annually from the flu in Quebec.

A recent outbreak of H1N1 in Alberta has killed 10 people so far, and at least 960 cases of infection have been reported. About 300 people have been hospitalized.

In Montreal, clinics will be held for children aged 0-5 at the CLSC des Faubourgs (Visitation) on Jan. 8 and the CLSC Saint-Louis-du-Parc on Jan. 17.

Hébert said there should be no wait time for those considered at higher risk. Any delays should be reported to their local health authority.

This year’s vaccine covers H1N1 and H2N3, the dominant flu virus from 2011 and 2012.

Strains covered by the 2013-2014 flu vaccine:

  • A/California/7/2009 (H1N1).

  • A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2).

  • B/Massachusetts/2/2012.

Hébert said anyone experiencing symptoms including shortness of breath, severe headaches and high fever should visit their family doctor or a medical clinic.

"If possible, try to avoid emergency rooms, where vulnerable people are at risk," he said.

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