Influenza affecting thousands in Canada

Some workers are not just likely to get the disease but can even spread the virus

Influenza affecting thousands in Canada

While the world has been anxious about the effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus and how to stop its outbreak, another respiratory illness is putting thousands of Canadian workers and civilians in sickbay.

According to the Infection Prevention and Control Canada (IPAC), there have been 30,142 reported influenza (flu) cases in the country from Aug. 25, 2019 to Feb. 15, 2020. This followed the 39,192 cases reported between 2018 and 2019, and the 55,059 cases reported between 2017 to 2018.

In fact, more than 12,000 people have been infected with the flu for each of the past 12 years, discounting 2019-2020. In the past 20 years, the lowest number of infections was 3,517, recorded in 2002-2003.

Those who are sick with flu experience headache, chills and cough followed rapidly by a fever, appetite loss, muscle aches, and tiredness. The virus typically lasts a week to 10 days, according to IPAC.

The flu may not sound as serious as COVID-19, even though both are respiratory diseases that cause shortness of breath, among others. Nevertheless, it is among the 10 leading causes of death in Canada, causing an average of 3,500 deaths each year, according to the federal government.

In April 2009, the 21st century saw its first influenza pandemic, originating in Mexico and spreading around the world a month later. In Canada, the H1N1 virus was confirmed in all provinces and territories and carried a mortality rate of 1.3 per 100,000 population, said IPAC.

At risk

Influenza is spread from person to person through droplets (for example, saliva or sneezing) and by touching objects and surfaces that are contaminated with the virus. Everyone is at risk of getting the flu, but certain people are more vulnerable to it, including those who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, pregnant women.

And some workers are not just likely to get the disease but can even spread the virus. These include caregivers, child care providers, healthcare providers and those who provide services in closed or relatively closed settings to people at high risk.

Control and Prevention

To reduce the spread of flu, IPAC recommends that people must wash hands and use alcohol-based hand rub after contact with eyes, mouth, nose or secretions; avoid handling soiled tissues or objects used by an ill person and cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. People who fall ill must also stay at home.

Those working in the healthcare field must do the same. They must also practice good hand hygiene before and after all patient contact; use appropriate personal protective equipment (gloves, masks, eye protection) for contact with all patient secretions/excretions and disinfect all equipment shared between patients. They must also clean and disinfect all patient contact surfaces after the patient leaves an examining room or area.

“Treatment of influenza usually involves making the person more comfortable – increasing fluid intake and getting plenty of rest,” said IPAC.