Worst start to flu season since 2010
579 cases confirmed so far, affecting children more
If recent numbers are any indication, New Brunswick may be in for a particularly bad flu season.
Data released by the office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health show that the start of the 2018-19 flu season has been the worst in almost a decade.
As of Dec. 29, there were 579 confirmed cases of influenza in the province, with the majority coming in the past two weeks.
It's a substantial increase from last year, when there were 207 confirmed cases by this time.
The period covered by the figures begins in late August, when there are few flu cases, and extends to the last week of the year.
Seventy-one hospitalizations related to the flu were reported in the province up to Dec. 29.
This is the same number seen by the end of 2017.
So far, three people are confirmed to have died because of the flu, compared with two by the same time in 2017.
More children affected
Dr. Gabriel Girouard, a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, said a greater proportion of tests in his lab have been positive.
"Just in the last days in the lab we had more than 100 cases that were diagnosed."
Girouard said the lab generally receives 100 samples a day to test, and recently between 50 and 80 per cent of them have tested positive for influenza.
Many of the samples are from children, he said.
The primary strain of influenza this year is H1N1, which this year's vaccine is good at fighting off. This suggests that the problem could be that parents are not getting flu shots for their children, he said.
May still be time for shot
Girouard said last year's vaccine was not as effective at fighting the predominant strain, which may have influenced parents this year.
"Some people or patients lost confidence in the vaccine," he said.
Girouard said there may still be time for people to get the vaccine, although supplies are likely limited and the vaccine can take up to 14 days to become effective.
With files from Information Morning Moncton