Flu season in Quebec is off to a very slow start.
The number of cases so far this season is way down compared to the numbers one year ago:
- In 2014, by Dec. 13: there were 1,700 influenza cases
- In 2015, by Dec. 13: there were fewer than 100 cases.
Of those across the province who took influenza tests, very few tested positive for the virus
- In 2014, by Dec. 13: about 28 per cent of influenza tests came back positive
- In 2015, by Dec. 13: about 1 per cent of influenza tests came back positive
This puts flu activity at a five-year low in Quebec.
"We don't know why this is happening," says Dr. Gaston De Serres, an epidemiologist with the Institut national de santé publique de Québec.
"It's been a quiet season up to now and I think part of it might be the mild weather, and when there's mild weather there's less crowding," says Montreal pediatrician Dr. John Yuremko.
This year's flu season is a stark contrast with 2014, when cases skyrocketed across Canada and the U.S. due to a vaccine-resistant strain. The flu shot wasn't effective in protecting against the H3N2 flu strain.
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Yaremko says he was careful to speak with parents to remind them that even after last year's vaccine flop, they should still get the vaccine this year.
"We were worried at the beginning of the season because of last year's experience where the vaccine did not match the influenza that was in the community. But the response has been very good amongst our patients — both children and adults."
Doctors caution there's normally a second wave of cases, so we're not out of the woods quite yet.
"We have a bit of a honeymoon period where things quiet down, and often in March, April, we have another phase of influenza. So even now it's not too late to get the vaccine," Yaremko says.
De Serres agrees.
"An onset is likely. There has been no year without influenza."
Health Canada recommends the flu vaccine for everyone aged 6 months and older, especially infants, the elderly and people who are in contact with those at high risk of contracting the flu.