Flu spreading in Canada, U.S.

Flu continues to spread across Canada, with 107 new outbreaks reported in the first week of the new year. In the U.S., flu is widespread in 47 states.

This year's flu season started earlier than usual, experts say

Damien Dancy puts masks on his children Damaya, 3, left, and Damien, 7, on Wednesday at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, Va. Some U.S. hospitals are turning away visitors or making them wear masks. (Stephen M. Katz/Associated Press)

Flu continues to spread across Canada, with 107 new outbreaks reported in the first week of the new year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Most of the new outbreaks occurred in long-term care facilities. Fifteen regions in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador reported widespread flu activity. Localized flu outbreaks were reported in 20 other regions. 

The agency said the incidence of people reporting flu-like symptoms was "above the expected range for this time of year."

Lab tests confirmed 3,864 cases of flu in the week ending Jan. 5. In that week, PHAC said 95 people were sent to hospital due to flu — 69 of them children.

This week, health officials in Alberta said flu and norovirus caused capacity issues at hospital emergency rooms, emergency rooms across New Brunswick are seeing growing numbers of patients complaining of influenza-like symptoms and Toronto Public Health reported a spike in flu cases.

Flu widespread in 47 states

Health officials say flu is more widespread across the U.S., but the number of hard-hit states has declined.

Flu season started early this winter, and includes a strain that tends to make people sicker.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday said flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before. The number of hardest hit states dropped to 24 from 29.

So far, 20 children in the U.S. have died from the flu. The CDC said flu and pneumonia caused 7.3 per cent of deaths in the week ending Jan. 5. That's just above the epidemic threshold of 7.2 per cent.

There is no running tally of adult deaths, but the CDC estimates that the flu kills about 24,000 people in an average year. 

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press