Flu activity drops in New Brunswick

The actual number of flu cases in New Brunswick is likely much higher than reported since most people don't get tested for the flu. They simply stay home. (Shutterstock - image credit)
The actual number of flu cases in New Brunswick is likely much higher than reported since most people don't get tested for the flu. They simply stay home. (Shutterstock - image credit)

Flu activity continues to decrease in New Brunswick, with one death reported during the second week of January compared to 12 the previous week.

Five people were admitted to the hospital because of the flu between Jan. 8-14, down from 30, according to the latest figures from Public Health.

The number of lab-confirmed cases also dropped to 36, from 108, the influenza report shows.

In addition, no new lab-confirmed flu outbreaks have been reported in nursing homes or other long-term care settings for the second straight week.

The update comes as New Brunswick is dealing with the deadliest influenza season it has seen in at least a decade.

Sixty people have died since the season began on Aug. 28.

Data on the Public Health website dating back to 2013-14 shows until now, the highest number of deaths was 50 in 2017-18.

Nearly 41% drop in new RSV cases

New Brunswick has also seen a drop in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, according to the latest figures posted by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

There were 126 new cases confirmed by a lab during the week ending Jan. 14, the report shows.

That's down from 212 the previous week, a nearly 41 per cent decrease.

RSV is a common respiratory virus most children contract by the age of two. It usually causes a mild illness with cold-like symptoms, but can be "an important cause of morbidity and mortality in infants, young children and the elderly," according to Health Canada.

A total of 1,312 cases have been confirmed in the province so far this season. In 2018-19, pre-pandemic, the seasonal total was 1,237.

Follows national flu trend

Flu activity also continues to decline at the national level, the influenza report says. "Influenza activity is now at levels typically seen in late spring/early summer."

Despite the overall provincial decrease in flu activity, there is now "localized" activity in two health zones, up from one in the previous report — the Moncton region, Zone 1, and the Saint John region, Zone 2.

Localized activity is defined as "evidence of increased [influenza-like illness] with lab-confirmed influenza detection(s) and outbreaks in schools, hospitals, residential institutions and/or other types of facilities occurring in less than 50 per cent of the influenza surveillance region."

The five other zones all have "sporadic" activity, which is defined as sporadically occurring influenza-like illnesses and lab-confirmed cases with no outbreaks detected within the region.

Government of New Brunswick
Government of New Brunswick

The regional breakdown of the 36 new lab-confirmed cases is:

  • Moncton region, Zone 1 — 13.

  • Saint John region, Zone 2 — three.

  • Fredericton region, Zone 3 — five.

  • Edmundston region, Zone 4 — five.

  • Campbellton region, Zone 5 — two.

  • Bathurst region, Zone 6 — five.

  • Miramichi region, Zone 7 — three.

Of the 36 cases, four were influenza A(H3) viruses, 31 were influenza A (unsubtyped) and one was influenza B virus.

Two new influenza-like illness outbreaks in schools have been reported, the report says, although an accompanying chart indicates three — one in the Moncton region and two in the Saint John region.

These outbreaks, which are based on absence rates of greater than 10 per cent because of influenza-like symptoms, should be "interpreted with caution," the report notes. The number "might be misrepresented due to the ongoing circulation of COVID-19, since distinction between influenza-like-illness and COVID-like illness is not always evident."

There have been 35 influenza outbreaks in nursing homes and other long-term settings reported so far this season, and 214 influenza-like outbreaks in schools.

A total of 858 hospitalizations have been reported since the beginning of the season and 4,289 lab-confirmed cases — 137 influenza A(H3) viruses, 4,150 influenza A (unsubtyped) and two influenza B.