Influenza: Who’s Most at Risk?

Influenza: Who's Most at Risk? | Dr. Ali Ghahary

As many as 12,000 Canadians – primarily seniors and children – are hospitalized due to the flu each year.

According to a recent report done by the CBC, there have been approximately 15,000 cases of the flu reported this season – a rather large spike compared to the 9,000 cases that were reported around this time last year.

In their latest FluWatch report, the Public Health Agency of Canada says that influenza activity remains high across Canada and that the number of cases reported are greater than normal for this time of year – particularly in adults aged 65 and older – although there have also been some indicators that suggest influenza may be nearing its peak of the season.

There are many different strains of the flu that an individual can be diagnosed with and those variants change every year. However, the strain that is most commonly affecting those during the 2017/2018 season is a strain known as H3N2 – a subtype of influenza A, which tends to cause more severe illness in young children as well as patients who are elderly. Influenza B is also increasing steadily, according to the report. Regardless of the type of flu strain you have, typical symptoms include body aches and pain, fever, sore throat, cough, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue.

As mentioned, children and elderly patients are more susceptible to developing the flu. Children’s immune systems aren’t yet fully formed, meaning it’s much easier for them to become infected and more difficult to fight that infection. As such, it’s always recommended that you have your child vaccinated against the flu, and to make sure that’s done before the flu season starts. When it comes to elderly patients, their immune systems tend to be weakened or compromised, also making it much easier for them to develop influenza and even more harder to fight it off on their own which can result in serious complications, such as severe dehydration, pneumonia, and the worsening of chronic health conditions like asthma and heart disease.

The first thing you should do if you suspect you or your family member has the flu is to contact your physician. He or she will be able to make a diagnosis based on your symptoms as well as make any additional treatment recommendations if necessary. Symptoms of the flu can last anywhere from 7 days up to 2 weeks – and sometimes even longer depending on the circumstances, so you’ll want to make sure you get plenty of rest and don’t over exert yourself if you’re still not feeling 100% – and also make sure to drink plenty of water. Unless you have a bacterial infection, antibiotics will not cure the flu, so you’ll want to avoid them. Unnecessary use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. Instead, family physician Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends trying over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol, to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the flu. However, you should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medication – particularly if you are already on medication that has been prescribed to you, as some of them may interact with each other and cause adverse (and sometimes severe) reactions whenever they are combined.