Have the flu this holiday? Scarborough's hospital says stay away

Three hospitals in Scarborough are asking anyone with the flu to steer clear if they don't need emergency care.

Don't visit hospital patients if you've got influenza symptoms, doctor says

The strain of flu being seen in Toronto this year is more virulent, but the vaccine is considered a good match. (CBC)

Scarborough's newly merged hospital is asking anyone with the flu to steer clear unless they need emergency care.

"We just want to prevent the spread of the illness, if we can, to families and patients and our staff," said Dr. Joe Butchey, chief of emergency medicine at Scarborough and Rouge Hospital's Centenary site.

The hospital wants to prevent the spread of flu among patients, Dr. Joe Butchey said. (Scarborough and Rouge Hospital )

The BirchmountScarborough and Centenary emergency departments are often busier during the flu season, which can peak during the holidays, according to a media release.

"It's been pretty calm so far, but we do usually notice in the next couple of days when people are home [or] in malls, a lot of things tend to get pretty bad pretty quick," Butchey said.

Higher number of cases

The facility's request comes as the city is being hit by what's among the highest number of flu cases seen at this time of year, said Dr. Vinita Dubey, the associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health. Dubey said that's compared to other early flu seasons in the past decade. 

The number of cases of influenza are ramping up and expected to peak in the next couple of weeks, she said.

"The predominant strain that's circulating is H3N2," the doctor said. "It's an influenza, a virus, and we know that type of strain tends to be more virulent — meaning it gives people more disease, more often and a more serious strain of disease."

Vaccine cuts infection risk by 50%

There's still time to get the flu shot before the influenza virus peaks, Toronto Public Health's Dr. Vinita Dubey said. (Toronto Public Health)

The good news is the flu that's circulating is a good match for this year's flu vaccine.

"If you haven't got it yet, right now is a good time to get [immuized]," Dubey said.

The flu shot will cut your risk of getting influenza in half and can prevent the spread of the virus, according to public health officials. The same flu strain made the rounds two years ago, but the vaccine at that time wasn't as good of a match.

Know the symptoms

If you have a fever higher than 38 C with a cough or headache, aching muscles, sore throat and fatigue or weakness, you likely have the flu.

"If there are other symptoms: rashes, extraordinary headaches, a cough that's really rattling and is not getting better, anybody with those things needs to get checked out," Butchey said. 

One reason to get the flu shot is because, if you become ill, you can spread the virus days before you show symptoms, Dr. Dubey said. (CBC)

After-hours or walk-in clinics and Telehealth Ontario are alternatives if you are not experiencing a health emergency, the Scarborough emergency physician said.

Otherwise, both doctors suggested drinking plenty of fluids, getting rest, and staying home for a few days. In time, it will pass.