Flu numbers in Sask. spike in December, up 80% over 2016

There were 685 confirmed cases of the flu in Saskatchewan between September and December, up 80% over the same time in 2016.

Most of the affected were between the ages of 20 and 64

There were 12 admissions to intensive care units in the province due to flu between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, and two deaths. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

There were 685 confirmed cases of the flu in Saskatchewan during the last four months of 2017 — an 80 per cent increase from the year before.

There were 380 confirmed cases reported during the same time frame in 2016. Most of the affected were seniors.

People between the ages of 20 and 64 were the most affected in 2017, according to the province's numbers. There were 599 confirmed cases of the flu between the weeks of Dec. 2 and 30.

There were 12 severe cases that required a trip to an intensive care unit and two deaths recorded. The numbers spiked during the week of Dec. 23, with 266 confirmed cases. 

However, as these numbers are only confirmed cases, the actual number of cases is likely higher as not all people seek medical care for the flu. Likewise, not all of those who died with flu-like symptoms were tested. 

Cases were up for all ages across the board in 2017, including children and seniors.

There were 30 outbreaks within the province's long-term care homes, with 10 occurring during the last week of the year. 

'Not too late' to get vaccinated 

There has been 11,275 confirmed flu cases reported by Dec. 30 in the country, said Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer with the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

About 74 per cent of those have been due to influenza A and almost all of those cases have been the H3N2 strain. 

"When there is a flu season that has a predominately H3N2 strains of influenza A, they tend to be what we call maybe a harder flu season," Njoo said.

He said that's because that strain has more serious effects on vulnerable populations, like seniors.

This season in Canada, 44 per cent of reported flu cases have been in people older than 65. 

Researchers and medical experts will have a clearer idea if the strains that were in this year's vaccines matched the circulating strain once the flu season ends. 

But data collected so far doesn't look promising. 

"We are noticing that the strains that are obviously circulating in the population are maybe not matching up as well with those that are in the vaccine itself," Njoo said. 

However, he still encourages people to get vaccinated to stop the transmission of the virus. 

"It's not too late to not only protect yourself, but also those around you, families and friends."