Saskatoon

Flu season comes early to province and should peak over the holidays

Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer for the Government of Saskatchewan, says flu season has begun about three weeks earlier than usual.

H1N1 strain is back for the first time since 2016, says Sask.'s chief medical officer

Four people have died in Saskatchewan from flu since September. (Robert Short/CBC)

The flu season has started early this season in Saskatchewan.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer for the Government of Saskatchewan, says flu season is about three weeks earlier than usual. Four people have died in the province from the flu since September.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer for the Government of Saskatchewan, says he expects this to be a typical flu season despite it starting about three weeks earlier than usual. (Trent Peppler/CBC News)

Lab-confirmed cases of influenza are also up drastically this season, compared to 2017 and 2016.

There have been 866 people confirmed to have the flu so far this fall. In the same period in 2017, there were 170 confirmed cases and in 2016 there were just 87 cases.

Despite the high numbers, Shahab said this is looking like it will be a typical flu season aside from the early start.

"We think that (flu numbers) are going to peak toward the end of December and start tapering down over January, which is very different from the previous H1N1 season 2016 where we saw no cases til end of January," Shahab said.

With the holidays just around the corner, Shahab urged anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms to stay away from young children and the elderly.

"The H1N1 season does impact slightly more children under the age five and younger adults with underlying health conditions," he said.

So far about 277,000 people have been vaccinated in Saskatchewan.That is about three per cent higher than last year.

A Public Health Agency of Canada report for the week of Dec. 2 to Dec. 8 said there have been 16 flu-related deaths in Canada so far this season.

People can still get vaccinated at their local pharmacy or family physician.

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