New Brunswick

'In for a very bad flu': Virus hits New Brunswick early, claims 1 life

The flu has hit New Brunswick earlier this year and may be nastier than last winter, with one flu-related death already in the province, according to health officials.

Thousands of people in province already immunized, vaccine costs $25

Carol Reimer says CBI Home Health has already immunized more than 7,000 New Brunswickers. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

The flu has hit New Brunswick earlier this year and may be nastier than last winter, with one flu-related death already in the province, according to health officials.

There have been 42 reported cases of influenza since the end of August, primarily in southern New Brunswick hospitals.

"We've already had sporadic outbreaks, and that's unusual for us," said nurse Carol Reimer, the clinical lead for influenza vaccinations for CBI Home Health, the organization taking over much of the work of the former Victorian Order of Nurses (VON).

"We usually don't get it until late December," she said.

Australia … had two times the incidents, and twice as many hospitalizations and deaths.- Carol Reimer, CBI Home Health

CBI has already vaccinated more than 7,000 people in the province, while many others have been vaccinated by their family doctors or pharmacists.

Because North America is the last place in the world to get the virus, health officials generally know what's coming. The majority of the cases to date have been caused by influenza A (H3N2).

"This year we are in for a very bad flu," said Reimer.

"Australia, in the late summer, reported this A (H3N2), they had two times the incidents, and twice as many hospitalizations and deaths," she said.

"As it moved across east, across the world, in early October it was in India, they had four times the incidents."

The flu shot costs $25, but is free to anyone over 65, under 18, or with certain health conditions. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Flu symptoms are similar to a chest cold, but with a fever.

The  virus most severely affects the very young and the elderly, as well as those with compromised immune systems.

The flu shot costs $25, but is free to anyone over 65, under 18, or with certain health conditions.

Of the 42 flu cases reported to date, 37 were influenza A (H3), three were influenza A (unsubtyped) and two were influenza B, according to Department of Health officials.

The province has seen 32 influenza-associated hospitalizations and one death. Twenty-one of the cases were related to two hospital outbreaks, officials said. The patients had been admitted at least 48 hours before exhibiting flu symptoms.

The components of the 2017-18 vaccine are:

  • A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus.
  • A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus.
  • B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
  • B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus.

About 244,630 doses of the publicly funded vaccine were distributed in 2016-17, according to health officials.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Harrop loves a good story. She has been a journalist for more than 25 years.

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