Six people — including three pre-school age children — have died in hospital from influenza in Saskatchewan since the beginning of September.
According to the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, flu season has peaked and there are still two to four more weeks of Influenza A transmission left.
“It’s not settling down,” he said at a media conference in Regina on Wednesday.
This flu season, which started Sept. 1, is an H1N1 season, and Shahab said health officials are seeing higher rates of the illness among children under the age of five now than in H3N2 seasons. In H3N2 years, the transmission rates are higher among people 65 years and over, he said.
Children under five years of age account for not only half of the influenza deaths, but six of the 14 intensive care admissions at Saskatchewan hospitals since Sept. 1.
The infection rate among children younger than five is 600 per 100,000 people, with 525 lab-confirmed cases in this age cohort. Among school-aged children between the ages of five and 19, the rate is a substantially lower 200 per 100,000 people, with 474 lab-confirmed cases.
Overall, there have been 1,988 lab confirmed cases since the beginning of September, as of the week ending Jan. 5.
Shahab said the outcome of the virus can be especially severe for people under the age of five.
He is also urging parents of children who are sick to keep them home until they have recovered. Shahab said health care workers are seeing higher rates of the illness among pre-schoolers in this H1N1 flu season than they have in H3N2 seasons.
He said while most adults and children who get sick are fine after a few days at home, children under six months who develop a fever should be taken to a health care provider. Children this young are too young to immunize.
Shahab said if parents notice that their child under three is showing “concerning” signs, such as rapid breathing, not eating or not wanting to be held, they should seek care urgently since these symptoms could be a sign of something more serious.
He is also encouraging parents with children six months and older to get their children immunized, and urging women who are pregnant to be vaccinated, since this provides some protection for newborns who are not old enough to get the vaccine themselves.
H1N1 is the flu strain at the centre of the pandemic outbreak of a decade ago. It has made the rounds four times since then; the last time was three years ago.
Information about where to get a free flu shot , click here.
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