Flu kills 9 more New Brunswickers in one week

Influenza has hit earlier and harder across New Brunswick and the rest of the country this season. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) - image credit)
Influenza has hit earlier and harder across New Brunswick and the rest of the country this season. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) - image credit)

The flu has killed nine more New Brunswickers, raising the total number of deaths this season to 39, the latest weekly figures from Public Health show.

No information about the individuals, such as their ages or any underlying health conditions, are provided in the influenza surveillance report.

There were also 134 people hospitalized between Dec. 11 and Dec. 17, down from the previous week's record-high 146. That brings the total number of hospitalizations since the 2022-23 flu season began on Aug. 28 to 704.

By comparison, New Brunswick had five flu deaths and 92 hospitalizations all of last season.

A total of 711 lab-confirmed cases of the flu were reported during the week in question, with a positivity rate of 23 per cent.

Government of New Brunswick
Government of New Brunswick

The actual number of flu cases in the province is likely much higher since most people don't get tested for the flu. They simply stay home.

Since the beginning of the season, 3,538 confirmed cases have been reported across the province — 118 influenza A(H3) viruses, 3,419 influenza A (unsubtyped) and one influenza B.

The regional breakdown of the new cases is:

  • Moncton region, Zone 1 — 177.

  • Saint John region, Zone 2 — 90.

  • Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 122.

  • Edmundston region, Zone 4 — 87.

  • Campbellton region, Zone 5 — 37.

  • Bathurst region, Zone 6 — 154.

  • Miramichi region, Zone 7 — 44.

There is now "localized activity" — the second-highest level — in every health zone, according to the report. 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."

Government of New Brunswick
Government of New Brunswick

Four nursing homes have been hit with lab-confirmed flu outbreaks — two in the Fredericton region and two in the Bathurst region.

There was also a lab-confirmed outbreak in one "other" setting, according to the report. CBC has requested more information from the Department of Health and is awaiting a response.

The number of influenza-like illness outbreaks at schools continues to decrease, with 12 outbreaks reported during the week in question, compared to 24 the previous week and 63 the week before that.

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."

So far this season, 27 flu outbreaks in nursing homes and "other" settings have been reported, and 206 influenza-like outbreaks in schools.

David Bajer/CBC
David Bajer/CBC

The flu shot is recommended for all New Brunswickers aged six months and older, with a higher dose available for those 65 or older.

The seasonal influenza vaccine is available free of charge through a variety of immunization providers, including participating pharmacies and Public Health clinics.