Flu cases on the rise in N.B., but vaccination rates remain low

CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown

Published Friday, January 4, 2019 6:44PM EST

As the number of flu cases spikes in New Brunswick, health professionals are sounding the alarm that not enough people are getting the flu shot.

From August 2018 to the end of December 2018, there were 579 lab confirmed cases of the flu in the province, according to Flu Watch reports issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada. That number is already more than double the 207 confirmed cases during the same period last year. Three people have died from the virus.

An early start to the flu season is responsible for the increase, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer, told CTV Atlantic.

“The numbers that we’re seeing right now we would normally see at the end of January,” she said.

The dominant flu strain this year is H1N1 – the same virus that was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in 2009 after it caused hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world.

While the number of flu cases is down in the rest of Atlantic Canada, health professionals are warning that not enough people are getting the flu shot, which puts themselves and others at risk.

This year’s vaccine is considered to be a good match for the strain of the virus currently spreading, but in order to get the maximum benefit from the shot, 80 per cent of the population must be immunized. The vaccination generally takes from 10 days to two weeks to take effect as the body builds up antibodies.

But in Nova Scotia, for instance, less than 50 per cent of people have received the flu vaccine.

“What we need to do is to get everybody vaccinated as much as we can to help protect everybody else,” Curtis Chafe, the chief of the board for the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia, told CTV Atlantic.

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