Public health officials are reporting a spike in lab-confirmed influenza cases and respiratory outbreaks in Ottawa, but say the severity of this year's flu season so far pales in comparison to last year's.

Ottawa Public Health said there are 13 ongoing respiratory outbreaks, including six flu outbreaks and outbreaks caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rhinovirus. 

Since Sept. 1, 2015, nine separate influenza outbreaks have been reported in Ottawa.

As of Feb. 23, there were 124 lab-confirmed cases of flu, mostly influenza A. and 35 flu-related hospitalizations. 

1 flu-related death

Officials confirmed one influenza-related death, but would not reveal the age of the patient who died. 

People over the age of 65, people with chronic illnesses, young children and pregnant women are at higher risk of flu-related complications and hospitalizations.

By way of comparison, last year's flu season in Ottawa was one of the heaviest on record, with more than 900 cases of lab-confirmed cases of flu, more than 230 hospitalizations, more than 100 flu outbreaks and 27 flu-related deaths.

Public health officials point out that reported, lab-confirmed flu cases are typically only a small portion of actual cases in the community. They said even though this season's flu activity is lower than in many previous years, there's sometimes a spike in flu activity in the month of March.