Lab-confirmed flu cases double in Nova Scotia
April Vansnick and her daughter waited about four hours at a walk-in clinic to see a doctor for their flu symptoms.
“It’s just a relentless flu bug,” Vansnick said.
Cases of the flu are multiplying as the virus showed up earlier than usual this year.
Nova Scotia’s latest Respiratory Watch data shows that in the last three weeks of November, lab-confirmed cases more than doubled each week. From Nov. 20 to 26, there were 524 new cases of influenza A and no new cases of influenza B.
The data also showed eight people who tested positive with the flu have died so far this season, although it notes influenza may not have been the major contributing cause of death.
At daycares in the Halifax Regional Municipality, operators are noticing a major drop in attendance.
“We’ve experiencing between 40 and 50 per cent absenteeism with our children,” said Bonnie Minard, Executive Director of Portland Daycare Centre. “With our staff, we’ve 30 to 40 per cent out.”
Minard said it’s been going on for about two to three weeks and many children are out for eight to ten days, which is unusual.
“I think a good portion of it has been the flu, but there has been a few cases of RSV,” she said, noting that other daycares are experiencing similar illness—causing closures of rooms or centres.
“We need a certain number of people to operate,” she said.
Eric Coates, the Clinical Transformation Director for Nova Scotia’s Central Zone and interim position as Director of the Halifax Infirmary Emergency Department, said several hospitals are seeing more patients with flu-like symptoms.
He pointed out that at Dartmouth General Hospital, 10 per cent of patients are showing flu-like symptoms, while at the Cobequid Community Health Centre, that number jumps to 22 per cent.
“That’s absolutely higher than usual,” Coates said. “Probably about double.”
A higher number of patients with respiratory symptoms also translates into longer waits.
“It takes longer to process those people. Registration, triage and actually see them in the department due to infection control practises,” said Kate MacWilliams, a manager of Health Services at Nova Scotia Health.
She described hospitals as being overcapacity and understaffed but wants patients to seek care if they need it.
“If they require emergency care, then they need to come to the emergency department -- and they need to stay,” MacWilliams said.
Pharmacists are also busier than usual.
“I’m currently giving more flu shots this year than I have in previous years,” said Jamie Flynn, pharmacist and the owner of a Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Clayton Park.
If you’ve had the flu, but not the flu shot, Flynn is encouraging people to get it.
“Get the flu shot afterwards. Once they’re feeling better,” he said. “To try to keep from getting that again.”
According to Nova Scotia’s Department of Health and Wellness, 255,000 doses of influenza have been administered and at least 26 per cent of the population is vaccinated for the flu.
The province said 54 per cent of people over of people over 65 have got the shot.
“Coverage is low in children and youth, with coverage in children under five at only about 12.5 per cent,” a provincial spokesperson said.
“It’s important to note our numbers for influenza vaccine coverage aren’t updated as frequently as they are for COVID-19 vaccines.”
Nova Scotia Health is also urging people to be patient and kind as they try to seek care.
“There’s more aggression and violence in our waiting rooms and emergency departments than ever before. Alarmingly high,” said Eric Coates.
“These folks who worked to try to keep these departments open and save lives are human beings who’ve been slogging it out for the hardest season of the system. They deserve the patience that everyone else might.”
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