Montrealers hit by double whammy of 2 types of flu at once

This year's influenza season is "very intense," says Montreal public health officer Dr. Renée Paré. She's been tracking the numbers for 2 years and says she's never seen anything like it.

This year's flu season 'very intense,' says public health officer, sending hordes to ERs

With two kinds of influenza hitting Montreal at once, hospitals and long-term care homes have been overwhelmed by sick patients. (CBC)

Montreal public health officer Dr. Renée Paré has been tracking influenza outbreaks in Montreal for 18 years, and she's never seen anything like it.

This year's flu season isn't just unusual, Paré says. It's unprecedented.

"It's very intense. We have, like, 20 outbreaks a week, and this is a lot of stress for the system," Paré told CBC in an interview.

The Quebec Health Ministry released new data this week that shows the number of positive tests for the flu has risen again.

Paré says the results in the most recent report, released Tuesday, indicate the virus is still spreading.

"We cannot tell you yet that the plateau has been attained," Paré said. "It means that we have many, many more people having the flu altogether, and presenting to all the clinics and emergencies."

Most years, both kinds of influenza — Type A and Type B — crop up at different times, with Type A typically occurring in December and Type B in March. 

But this year, both are hitting Quebec at the same time.

Montreal's public health officer, Dr. Renée Paré, says hospitals are expecting more people to get sick in the coming weeks. (CBC)

Paré recommends taking these precautions:

  • Avoid coming in contact with people who could suffer complications from the flu, such as the elderly, babies and people with weakened immune systems.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay away from public places where the flu can easily spread.
  • If you have a fever or cough and go to a clinic or hospital, she recommends wearing a face mask.
  • If you are ill, try to avoid visiting family and friends.

Earlier this winter, Montreal hospitals urged parents to keep kids with flu away from emergency rooms to ease overcrowding.

Anyone with questions about flu symptoms can visit their family doctor, a pharmacist or call Info-Santé at 811.

With files from Matt D'Amours