Flu season hits Ottawa hard — and the worst is yet to come

Public health officials in the Ottawa area say this flu season is more severe than in years past — and the city hasn't seen the worst of it yet.

"If we look at the average over the last three years, definitely this year we're seeing more cases," said Marie-Claude Turcotte, a program manager with Ottawa Public Health (OPH).

The public health agency has received 256 lab-confirmed cases of flu so far this year, and more cases are coming to its attention each week. That means the city has yet to hit the peak of the flu season, health officials say. 

Ontario does not systematically track the number of hospitalizations or deaths associated with the flu. OPH believes there are many more people sick than the number of lab-confirmed cases, said Turcotte.

So far, one death has been reported to OPH, as well as 20 outbreaks at institutions like long-term care homes and hospitals.

Type B arrived early

Most influenza cases in Ottawa — 65 per cent — are Type A, a strain which tends to affect older people more. The rest are Type B, which tends to affect children more.

"What's very different about this year compared to last year is the early arrival of influenza B. We usually see those influenza B cases later in the season, but this year we saw it much earlier, even before Christmas," Turcotte said.

Ottawa Public Health is urging people who have yet to get the flu shot to consider getting vaccinated. Doses are still available at most pharmacies and clinics in the city.

In the Outaouais, patients are also feeling the effects of the flu.

While the region isn't seeing as high a rate as other parts of Quebec, Dr. Carol McConnery, director of infectious diseases with Santé publique de l'Outaouais, said the public health agency is seeing "a lot" of cases, and is also waiting for flu season to peak.