Calgary

Brace yourself for nasty flu season, Calgary doctor warns

The flu season in North America typically looks a lot like the flu season that's coming to an end in the southern hemisphere — and Australia's flu strain was particularly nasty this year, says Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, a Calgary urgent care doctor.

Everyone should get the flu shot: it's the 'altruistic thing to do,' says Dr. Raj Bhardwaj

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj says Canada's flu season generally looks a lot like the flu season that has just ended in the southern hemisphere — and Australia's H3N2 influenza A virus led to 2.5 times the number of infections this past season compared to the previous season. (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)

Health officials across Canada are bracing for what could be a rough flu season. 

The flu season in North America typically looks a lot like the flu season that's coming to an end in the southern hemisphere — and Australia's flu strain was particularly nasty this year.

The H3N2 influenza A strain was responsible for about 2½ times the number of infections than usual, twice as many hospitalizations and twice as many deaths as usual, Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, a Calgary urgent care doctor, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.

"I think it's going to be bad," he said of the upcoming flu season.

People who are of high risk for influenza complications — people over 65, children under the age of five, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions — are urged to get the flu vaccine, which is available in Alberta starting Oct. 23.

For the average otherwise healthy adult, getting the flu can mean a week off of work and feeling unwell, but regardless, Bhardwaj said, everyone should get vaccinated.

Dr. Raj Bhardwajsays if you come down with the flu, you are contagious for at least one day before symptoms appear, then five days after symptoms come on. (@RajBhardwajMD/Twitter)

"The big thing for me is you're going to be contagious one day at least before you get any symptoms, and for five days after you get any symptoms and in that week," he said.

"How many people in those high risk groups are you going to infect and not just through direct contact?"

Ultimately, even if it's not for you, getting the flu shot is the "altruistic thing to do," Bhardwaj said.

The flu or just a cold?

If you start to feel unwell, keep in mind there are 200 circulating viruses during cold and flu season, and most of them are cold viruses.

The noticeable difference between the two is flu symptoms come on quickly.

"People go to work feeling fine, spreading the virus around. Then by the end of the day, they will feel like they got hit by a truck. The fever comes on fast, the aching body, even your hair hurts," he said.

People who are in high risk groups should seek medical treatment, Bhardwaj said. But for everyone else, the only treatment is to rest and treat your symptoms — with Advil, Tylenol, Kleenex and soup.

"Get all of those things ready now because once you're sick, you're not going to be in any shape to go out shopping for that," he said.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

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