Several areas in Canada such as Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto have recently witnessed an increase in influenza infections. According to April 3 – April 9, 2016 FluWatch report by Public Health Agency of Canada, all areas in Canada registered sporadic or localized influenza cases.
The rise in the number of influenza cases in Canada started two years ago and has continued up to date. Public Health Agency of Canada reports show that the 2014/2015 season recorded the highest number of influenza cases in all the flu seasons that the country has had. Canada had more than 7000 adult cases of influenza hospitalizations in the 2014/2015 season. The number of deaths in adults from influenza in that season was around 600. Infection Prevention and Control Canada (IPAC-Canada) reports that there were a total of 43,510 cases of influenza in Canada in the 2014/2015 season. It also shows statistics for the 2015/2016 season. As of March 5, 2016, there have been a total of 14,493 confirmed cases of influenza infections in Canada. The flu season in Canada usually runs from week 35 (August) to week 34 (August). The 2015/2016 season started on August 30, 2015.
The Public Health Agency of Canada requires a weekly report on the number of influenza hospitalizations and deaths from provincial and territorial Ministries of Health. It is important to note that the statistics by the Public Health Agency of Canada are just but a representation of the number of cases occurring in all regions of Canada as not all the provinces and territories submit their influenza reports.
What is influenza?
Influenza is commonly referred to as flu. It is a respiratory disease that is caused by viruses. There are two main viruses which cause influenza namely Influenza A virus and Influenza B virus. Influenza A has various subtypes such as H1N1 and H3N2. Influenza type B however does not have any subtype. There is a third type of influenza virus known as influenza C but it is not a common cause of infection in human beings.
Influenza symptoms are generally similar to those of a cold but are more intense. The symptoms of influenza include increased body temperature, headache, joints pain, muscle pain, shivers, cold sweats, fatigue, sore throat, coughing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
The symptoms of influenza are usually most severe in the first 3 or 4 days following infection. They tend to lessen afterwards. It can take up to two weeks to recover from a flu infection. The influenza virus has an incubation period of 1 to 4 days, it is averagely 2 days. It therefore takes around 2 or 3 days for influenza symptoms to set in once you have gotten exposed to virus. The earliest symptoms of influenza are usually fever, body aches, chills, and sore throat. If you are experiencing these symptoms, chances are that you could be developing flu. You should consult your doctor for medical assistance. Fever is usually prominent in people with flu, the body temperature can go up to 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) when symptoms first set in. An adult infected with influenza is capable of passing it on to others 1 day before the onset of symptoms and 5-7 days after symptoms have started.
Influenza is usually spread through person to person contact. When you come in contact with a person who has influenza, you can inhale the virus which they introduce into the air through coughing, sneezing, and even just exhaling. The flu viruses remain as suspended droplets in the air and cause infection when you inhale them. Viruses are capable of replicating very fast in the air and therefore chances are high that you will get infected when a person with influenza sneezes or coughs around you. Researchers say that people with flu can spread it to others up to 6 feet away. The virus can also spread as a person with influenza opens their mouth to talk to another person.
Apart from person to person contact, influenza can also be spread through contact with contaminated surfaces. When people infected with influenza sneeze or cough, the droplets which contain the viruses can settle on surfaces such as walls, tables, and countertops among others. When you touch these surfaces then go ahead to touch your nose or mouth, you can get infected with influenza. People with flu may also touch door knobs with contaminated hands. When you in turn touch these door knobs while opening or closing the door and then your hand comes in contact with your nose or mouth, you will likely get a flu infection.
Influenza infection is not very severe in most people and they can quickly recover from it but the disease can cause very severe complications in certain kinds of people. These include children below the age of 5 years, people above 65 years in age, expectant women, people in nursing and care homes, immuno compromised persons, patients with chest infections, people who are taking steroids, and people with diseases such as kidney problems, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and any long term illness. These group of people need to be given keen medical attention when diagnosed with flu as the viral infection can be fatal to them. They need to be hospitalized so as to be under medical personnels’ continuous monitoring.
People with influenza often recover without any complication after being placed under medical treatment but sometimes complications may arise from flu. There are cases where a patient with flu develops further complications such as bacterial infections of the ears, sinuses, and bronchitis and even more serious health problems like pneumonia. Disease pathogens take advantage of the body’s compromised immunity in the event of an influenza illness to attack the body and cause infection.
Concerning diagnosis, doctors are usually able to tell whether a person has an influenza or not by establishing their symptoms and examining them. They may however sometimes need to perform a blood test may to help ascertain an influenza infection. Apart from a blood test, a swab can be taken from a person’s nose or throat and then observed under a high power microscope for influenza viruses.
Treatment of influenza is usually done using antiviral drugs. Some of the antiviral drugs which are approved by Canadian health authorities for treatment of influenza include oseltamivir, zanamivir, and peramivir. It is advisable that one starts treatment within the first two days of getting sick as antiviral drugs work best within that time frame. You should also keep warm when infected with influenza as cold can worsen its symptoms and avoid coming in contact with others so as not to infect them with the influenza virus. In addition to everything, it is important that you have adequate bed rest. Your body is working overtime to fight the flu when you get infected with it so you shouldn’t stress your body further by moving around. Staying in bed will also help you avoid getting infected by other illnesses as you are very susceptible to infections when you have flu due to reduced immunity. Above all, staying in bed helps prevent you from spreading the infection to others.
Another strategy that is recommended in the management of influenza, albeit a traditional one, is drinking warm chicken soup. Chicken soup is believed to help ease symptoms of influenza and it has been touted as a remedy for flu and common cold for ages. Its effectiveness now has scientific backing as scientific researchers have found that it has anti-inflammatory properties which help reduce nose congestion and clear blocked sinuses thereby reducing the symptoms of flu.