The number of people battling the flu is skyrocketing across the country.
According to the latest FluWatch report from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the virus is spreading across Canada.
“At the national level, influenza activity has crossed the seasonal threshold, indicating the onset of an influenza epidemic,” the report states. “All monitoring indicators are rising and most are above typical expectations for this time of year.”
The national test positivity rate alone nearly doubled in a week, rising from 6.3% to 11.7%, surpassing the 5% threshold that plunged the country into an epidemic. The hardest hit communities appear to be in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick.
Sunny, the six-year-old daughter of Ryan Weichel, is one of them. Right before her birthday, Sunny was hospitalized for 4 days fighting the flu.
“She’s suffered a lot over the past few weeks. The first five hours she just wanted to go home. It was very difficult,” Weichel told CTV News.
He said Sunny had a fever that didn’t stop and had to go to the emergency room, where she tested positive for Influenza A. Dehydrated and in need of treatment, she was admitted to pediatric care after 12 waiting hour. She has finally come home and is in the process of being repaired.
“It’s a very scary situation,” Weichel said. “The situation could get worse and worse as time goes on, if we cannot control the fever and control the dehydration.”
The Weichels family is one of a growing number of families dealing with the flu.
Dr. Colin Furness is an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s department of information.
“The flu is unpredictable,” Furness told CTV News from Toronto. “Sometimes it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, sometimes the opposite, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a great mystery.”
Scientists can look to the southern hemisphere for what’s to come. Australia also experienced an early flu season with a high number of infections. But even in typical years, the death toll can be high.
Dr Alyson Kelvin, a microbiologist at the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Foundation at the University of Saskatchewan, told CTV News: “A typical flu season is not mild. “We lose about 3,000 people a year in Canada to the flu.”
Seasonal flu outbreaks occur in most years, but in 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 restrictions have greatly reduced spread. During those flu seasons, the test positive rate doesn’t even reach one percent. This season will be different, and right now, children are the most affected.
The latest FluWatch report from the week of October 30 to November 5 shows that hospitalizations for people 16 and younger have increased to more than 70, from 40 the previous week and 7 shift of the previous week. Children 2 to 4 years old and 10 to 16 years old accounted for 27% of hospital admissions, while 5 to 9 year olds accounted for 24%. The current test positivity rate is now higher than the seasonal average since 2014.
Meanwhile, children’s hospitals have reported overcrowding due to the latest wave of respiratory illnesses such as live flu, RSV and COVID-19. Doctors and hospital managers have also spoken out publicly about staff shortages.
Kelvin, from the University of Saskatchewan, said: “How could this be combined with COVID and other viruses… I don’t have a crystal ball,” said Kelvin, from the University of Saskatchewan. knows that’s what she’ll be watching over the next few weeks.
Experts say the flu vaccine is effective against current circulating strains of flu—if people get sick.
With files from Michael Lee of CTVNews.ca