There have been more influenza cases than usual on P.E.I. this flu season, with a particular spike in the last six weeks.

Last year there were 71 lab-confirmed cases of influenza over the entire flu season. This year, there have already been 144 confirmed cases, which includes 65 people who have been hospitalized.

' I would never suspect that the flu would actually land me in the hospital.' — Carol O'Hanley

While the number of cases this year is higher than average, numbers are up all across the country said P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison, adding it is typical for numbers to fluctuate year to year.

"Every year with influenza it's a little bit different," said Morrison. "We've certainly seen similar years in the past where we've had these kind of numbers."

Strain included in flu shot

The predominant flu strain this year is one of the four strains included in this year's flu shot.

Dr. Heather Morrison

The number of flu cases varies quite a bit year to year, says Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

For people who get the flu shot, the chance of being hospitalized with the flu is reduced by about half, said Morrison. 

This year less than a third of Islanders got the flu shot.

Carol O'Hanley usually gets the flu shot, but said she and her family didn't get vaccinated this year.

'First in line next year

"We just kind of forgot, and you know, it just kind of got put to the side, and we just never got around to it," said O'Hanley. 

2017 PEI flu survivor Carol O'Hanley

A bout with the flu landed Carol O'Hanley in the hospital recently. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

O'Hanley now wishes she had — she got sick in early February and had to take two weeks off work. Her symptoms were so bad, she ended up in the hospital for three nights, she shared. 

She'd heard of people being hospitalized with the flu before, but she never thought it would happen to her, she said.

"I always assumed that would be a young child, or an elderly person that would hit really hard. So I would never suspect that the flu would actually land me in the hospital," said O'Hanley, adding she won't forget again.

The median age of confirmed influenza cases this year is 64, but Morrison said it can affect anyone.

"I'll be first in line next year, and every year from now on, for sure," O'Hanley said. 

Two deaths this year

Among the 65 people who have been hospitalized, seven people were admitted to the ICU, she said.

flu vaccine

This season's predominant influenza strain was included in this year's flu shot. (Tony Talbot/AP)

Two people who had lab-confirmed cases of influenza died. Morrison said it is not unusual to see a few deaths a year.

"It tends to happen to people with other co-morbid conditions, or other health conditions. And it tends to be with the elderly," said Morrison.

The number of cases will likely start to drop soon, as peak flu season starts to die down, she added, noting these numbers are only cases that have been confirmed by lab testing, which represents a small portion of the total cases since most people never get tested.