Residents at Pioneer Manor in Sudbury have been hit hard by a nasty influenza bug that struck more than 60 residents over New Year's weekend.

Health care staff said it's a normal occurrence around flu season, but this year the disease has come earlier and hit with more force.

"It was quite overwhelming because of the number of people that got sick very quickly and how sick they got," said Nicole Haslam, who manages infection control at the residence.

"[It was] more than just a little bit of cough and cold."

Haslam said they've tried to limit patient movement throughout the building as well as discourage sick guests from coming to visit.

'Earlier start to flu season'

The Sudbury District Health Unit reports it's helping keep the Pioneer Manor outbreak under control.

The organization says the early start of influenza at the facility is in line with the number of cases in the community. There have been 12 confirmed cases of influenza this year, up from zero at this time last season.

"It's an earlier start to influenza season, but it's not surprising to see within our district at this point, because influenza season typically runs from November through to March," said Lisa Schell, manager of clinical services at the health unit.

The North Bay Regional Health Centre reports there have been 86 confirmed cases of influenza, however.

"[It] started in December and we had high numbers prior to Christmas," said Anne Loyst, director of medicine at the North Bay hospital.

"Normally we don't see them as high, nor do we see them go up so quickly. So definitely it's a different year and it's a bit scary, actually."

Loyst noted officials with the hospital are asking family and friends not to visit patients if they are experiencing any signs of illness.

Schell said long-term care residents — as well as members of the general population — are still encouraged to keep themselves healthy by getting their flu shot.

A total of 430 residents live at Pioneer Manor. And while getting a flu shot is not mandatory at the long-term care home, Haslam said 90 per cent of residents did receive one for this flu season.