Feeling under the weather? As if cold and flu season wasn’t bad enough, a new study indicates that turning to comfort food may be doing more harm than good. Research indicates eating processed food may be triggering an immune response in much the same way as our bodies deal with bacterial infections.
That’s no comfort to Canadians facing a large increase in both the number and virulence of flu cases this year, up to almost 16,000 from 9,000 at the same point in 2017.
As 2018 got rolling, there were 54 reported cases of flu deaths and 1,850 hospitalizations in the country, the majority of cases involving seniors. Influenza is ranked among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada.
Overall, influenza activity in Canada is high and continues to increase. The majority of influenza detections continue to be A(H3N2), although the proportion of detections that are influenza B has been increasing steadily. Southwestern Ontario has seen widespread issues with the flu this season.
The Public Health Agency of Canada notes that influenza A(H3N2) has been the most common subtype affecting Canadians, although the proportion influenza B cases has been increasing steadily.
Typically, some 12,000 Canadians are hospitalized due to the flu, with 3,500 deaths expected. Those at most risk are the elderly and young children.
Globally, there are some one billion cases of influenza, with the number of deaths estimated at 250,000 to 500,000.
The upswing in flu cases this year has health officials warning us to take precautions, beginning with frequent hand-washing.
The seasonal flu vaccine remains the best protection against flu viruses. Everyone over the age of six months is encouraged to get the vaccine, argue officials. The flu vaccine is especially important for those who are more likely to get seriously ill or suffer complications if they catch the flu.
Got the shot previously, so think you’re fine? Think again, say health experts. Getting the flu shot every year is important because the vaccine is reformulated annually. Flu viruses are constantly changing and your immunity levels following vaccination decrease over time, which is why a flu vaccine is needed each year. Flu vaccine is made up of the flu strains that research suggests will cause the most illness in each year’s flu season. That involves some guess work in advance, which isn’t always 100 per cent accurate.
The quick mutation of the strain of H3N2 has rendered this year’s vaccine somewhat less effective, which was predicted heading into the season based on earlier deployment in other countries.
In Ontario, the Ministry of Health has identified flu activity at a elevated season level – yellow, or stage two of its four-part evaluation system that ranges from green to yellow, then orange and red.
Children, seniors and those living with chronic diseases or underlying conditions such asthma, heart disease or diabetes are more susceptible to the flu and are at a greater risk from its complications, the doctors stress. Following a few basic guidelines such as coughing and sneezing into an elbow, using hand sanitizer, and washing hands frequently will help prevent the flu, doctors advise, adding that those already infected should try to avoid going out in public where there’s a risk of spreading the virus.