PEI

Flu hitting children harder this year, says IWK doctor

This year's flu season is in full swing and doctors in Canada are seeing more infants and young children being hospitalized.

'Most of the cases we see are due to lack of immunization'

'H1N1 does tend to affect young infants and children and even young adults more so than the other strains,' says Dr. Scott Halperin at the IWK children's hospital in Halifax. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

This year's flu season is in full swing and doctors in Canada are seeing more infants and young children being hospitalized. 

And despite the fact that the vaccine is free on P.E.I. and in many other provinces, people are still going unvaccinated. 

"Most of the cases we see are due to lack of immunization," Dr. Scott Halperin, medical director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at the IWK Hospital in Halifax, told CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin. 

The vaccine this year is likely to be very effective.— Dr. Scott Halperin

The main strain this year is H1N1, the same strain as was seen in the 2009 pandemic.

"H1N1 does tend to affect young infants and children and even young adults more so than the other strains," Halperin said. "Because H1N1 is predominating this year, it is expected we are going to see more cases in children and more hospitalizations."

'Second wave' possible

We are likely close to peak flu season now, Halperin said. 

Halperin warns a 'second wave' of flu later this winter is possible. (CBC)

"You really can't tell where the peak is until you're starting to come down from it, and still over the past week or so, cases were still increasing," he said. "We predict that it's probably going to be peaking this week or next week." 

Health PEI encouraged Islanders in a news release Wednesday to get the free flu shot.

So far this flu season, P.E.I. has had 93 lab-confirmed cases of the flu and 29 admissions to hospital related to the flu — seven of them children, none of whom had been vaccinated for flu this season. There have been no deaths on P.E.I. because of flu, Health PEI said. 

Halperin agrees it is still worth getting the shot. 

The vaccine given to Canadians looks like a good match to the flu that is circulating, Halperin said, so "the vaccine this year is likely to be very effective." In such years the vaccine is about 70 per cent effective and some people who get vaccinated may still get sick, but less severely than if they had not received the vaccine. 

Halperin also warned there may be a "second wave" of flu with a B-strain of flu later in the winter, and the vaccine contains protections against the B-strain. 

On average, the flu sends 12,200 Canadians to hospital and kills 3,500 a year. Just 38 per cent of adults were vaccinated during last year's flu season.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Louise Martin

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