Toronto — Last year’s flu season in Canada saw very few cases amid tight public health restrictions across the country. But as fall approaches, experts say we may be seeing another relatively mild flu season.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, told Granthshala.ca that he “would not be surprised” if we see more flu cases this year than last year, because of the public health concerns we have now. The restrictions are in place, but they haven’t as the number of cases is expected to jump to pre-pandemic levels.
“I really think it wouldn’t be ‘regular influenza’ in terms of having the same amount of cases,” Bogoch said on the phone on Monday, “but I’m totally drawn to it because it’s always predicting influenza.” Very challenging.”
Dr. Greta Bauer, a professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, thinks it’s too early to tell what flu season is going to be like in Canada, but she says flu season in the Southern Hemisphere The weather may offer a few clues. The Southern Hemisphere experiences winter during our summer months, which means that flu season has already arrived in those parts of the world.
“In the Southern Hemisphere, they’ve already wrapped up their influenza season for the year. And it was a very mild influenza season, so it’s usually great for us to know when we’re going into it. Turns out that there’s a lot of influenza in circulation in South and Central America that year,” Bauer said.
During the 2020-2021 flu season, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) reported only 79 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza. Last year, PHAC reported more than 54,000 influenza cases.
Experts say the dramatic drop in flu cases was mainly due to stronger public-health restrictions to combat COVID-19, which were also effective in preventing other respiratory viruses.
“Public health measures to combat COVID-19 have a very strong impact on influenza, such as masking, hand hygiene, and less people gathering indoors,” Bogoch said.
“Travel was also dramatically reduced. And people bring infectious diseases with them as they move around. We only had a small fraction of the international travel that we were used to seeing,” he said.
Bauer says that many of these measures, such as distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing surfaces, were unknowingly more effective in preventing the flu than COVID-19.
Bauer said during a phone interview with Granthshala, “I wouldn’t say they’re ineffective against COVID, but they’re designed for droplet dissemination, which is mainly influenza spread and they’ve been around for influenza last year.” were highly effective against.” . Ca on Tuesday.
While the flu primarily spreads through droplets, the growing consensus among scientists and doctors is that transmission of COVID-19 is primarily airborne.
An infectious disease specialist at McGill University Health Center’s Research Institute, Dr. Donald Vinh says that in addition to public-health measures, fewer flu cases last year may also be partly the result of “clinical bias”.
“What we’ve seen is that, at least in the last 18 months or so, most laboratory resources for diagnosing infection have been focused on COVID. And as a result, diagnostic tests for other viruses, such as influenza, have also decreased. ” he told Granthshala.ca by phone on Monday.
With fewer influenza cases in the Southern Hemisphere, Vinh says he is more concerned about the rise in other respiratory viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which primarily affects infants, young children and older adults. Is. Vinh says that RSV cases have increased in parts of the US and Canada.
“RSV is a virus for which there is no vaccine and it has the potential to make you quite ill, especially if you are immunocompromised,” Vinh said. “There’s a ‘twindemic’ going on in North America. And right now, that partner of COVID is RSV.”
No matter how severe flu season is, Bogoch calls it a “no-brainer” to get a flu shot when it’s available.
“Sometimes there’s an assumption that the flu is just a slight cough or cold. That’s not true. The flu is much worse. It kills about half a million people per year and about 3,500 Canadians in a typical year. It’s a bad infection, and it’s a vaccine preventable infection,” he said.