Flu numbers begin to decline

This year’s flu season may have already peaked, but that doesn't mean it is over

Doctors cautiously optimistic Canada on 'downslope' this flu season

It has been a typical flu season for the H3N2 strain, doctors say. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

New numbers from the Public Health Agency of Canada indicate that this year's flu season may have already peaked.

The latest statistics, taken from last week, showed that there were 2,667 cases where people tested positive for flu — that's down from 3,477 just a week earlier. Officials at the health agency believe it was the second week of January when the flu was its worst and since then it has slowly diminished.

To date, a total of 15, 231 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza were reported across Canada this year. Of that, 79 people have died. Most of the outbreaks occurred with elderly residents living in long-term care facilities.

While the numbers are declining there are still some isolated hot spots reporting widespread flu activity — three regions in Alberta and one each in Ontario, Quebec, P.E.I and British Columbia. 

Earlier this month, there were concerns that this would be a particularly bad flu season. Many people were getting sick after the holidays and there were widespread outbreaks across Canada.

Dr. Michael Gardam medical director of infection control at Women's College Hospital in Toronto said the situation became more confusing because there were  other viruses that presented  similar to the flu, peaking at the same time.

However, it has been a typical flu season for the H3N2 strain that occurred this year said  Dr. Danuta Skowronski, physician epidemiologist  the B.C Centre for Disease Control. This influenza subtype tends to hit older people harder and cause more severe symptoms.

Although she sees hopeful signs that the worst is over, Skowronski still wants to see a more sustained pattern of decline.

"Passing the peak doesn't mean the season is over," Skowronski  said in an email.

"We're cautiously optimistic that we're not seeing continued escalation but rather are now on the downslope of the epidemic curve."

She says it will be another week or so before doctors can formally declare the flu season to be over.  By that time, they expect to have an idea of how effective this year's vaccine has been.