Doctors across the territory are seeing a higher-than-normal number of cases of flu this year.
There have been 25 confirmed cases of influenza since the middle of November, said Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health. “But that’s kind of just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
“This is the most intense flu season we’ve seen since 2009, which of course was our pandemic year,” said Hanley. And it has come earlier than normal. With the exception of 2009, the flu hasn’t been seen until February for the past several years, he said.
The virus is a little different every year, said Hanley. This year, most cases are of Influenza A, subtype H3N2. That’s a match for the type found in the flu vaccine, which is “good news,” said Hanley.
Recent studies show getting the vaccine can cut a person’s chances of getting the virus in half, he said. And when one person gets the vaccine, they reduce the chances of someone else getting the virus. Children, the elderly, and those with chronic health conditions are more likely to get the flu.
The emergency room at the Whitehorse General Hospital has been busier, said Dr. Rao Tadapelli, president of the Yukon Medical Association. But there have been no major admissions because of it, he said.
The biggest challenge is doctors and nurses calling in sick, he said.
Resting, taking fluids and Tylenol, coughing into elbows and regular handwashing are still the best practices, he said.
But the flu isn’t the only illness going around.
Since November, there have been 33 confirmed cases of the respiratory syncytia virus, said Hanley. This is more than normal, he said. The virus often looks like a common cold. It can cause wheezing in young children and infants because it affects small airways. There’s no vaccination for the virus, he said.
Doctors are also seeing a number of cases of the Noro virus across the territory, said Hanley. It causes intense nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It generally lasts between two or three days.
It is only tested for in outbreak situations, like those in nursing homes, said Hanley.
The flu shot is still available at all health clinics in the communities, the Kwanlin Dun health centre and the Whitehorse health centre. There will be special flu shot clinics at the Whitehorse health centre today and on Jan. 25 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.