Flu epidemic officially declared by Public Health Agency of Canada

A flu epidemic has been declared in Canada with the latest public health data showing cases of influenza are rising rapidly across the country.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Flu Watch Report, flu activity has crossed the seasonal threshold, marking the official start of an epidemic.

“All surveillance indicators are increasing and most are above expected levels typical of this time of year,” reads the latest weekly report from the agency.

Those indicators include self-reporting and visits to doctors for flu-like symptoms.

The data shows the weekly percentage of positive tests for influenza from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5 increased to 11.7 per cent, from 6.3 per cent the week prior.

flu epidemic Canada

The shaded area represents the maximum and minimum number of influenza tests or percentage of tests positive reported by week from seasons 2014-2015 to 2019-2020. Data from week 11 of the 2019-2020 season onwards are excluded from the historical comparison due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

Public health officials have warned that hospitals across the country are already overburdened with flu, RSV, COVID-19 and other infections, and that is leading to growing calls for mask mandates.

In Ontario, the chief medical officer of health recommended masking indoors in an effort to curb the ongoing pediatric hospital crisis in the province, but he stopped short of a mandate. Dr. Kieran Moore said he is “discussing and reviewing” the possibility of requiring masks in schools again.

“What we are facing is a triple threat,” said Moore at his Monday news conference. “All three (flu, RSV and COVID-19) are actively circulating across Ontario in all of our communities.”

He said the threat requires “collective action” to protect the most vulnerable in the province. The province will also be expanding pediatric capacity in hospitals to 150 per cent and request that people aged 14 and up requiring critical care be treated in adult critical care beds.

The Registered Nurses Association says the Ford government’s inaction to mandate masks to help health-care workers and children is both “reckless and alarming.”

Dr. Doris Grinspun, CEO of the nurses association, says delays in enacting public health measures have had dire consequences on vulnerable populations such as seniors in the past, and the government must act urgently this time to protect children before it is too late.

With files from Meredith Bond and The Canadian Press

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