Increased Influenza A activity on the rise

Elevated Influenza A activity has prompted Grey Bruce Public Health to underscore the importance of receiving the flu vaccine.

Surveillance data indicates a surge in Influenza A cases at both local and provincial levels, leading GBPH to remind residents that there is still time to protect themselves from the respiratory virus by getting this year’s publicly funded flu vaccine.

Dr. Rim Zayed, GBPH’s Physician Consultant, emphasizes that the influenza vaccine – which is readily available at numerous participating pharmacies and through primary care providers in Grey-Bruce – continues to be the most effective defense against severe complications associated with the flu.

Dr. Zayed encourages residents to proactively protect themselves and contribute to the overall well-being of the community by getting vaccinated.

In addition to influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are actively circulating in the community.

Public Health Ontario (PHO) is currently reporting a “moderate” test positivity rate in the province for influenza, which is based on the most recent data from the week ending Dec. 30, 2023.

PHO anticipates that influenza activity will continue to increase over the short term, while COVID-19 activity – now considered high – is expected to remain stable, and RSV activity is projected to decrease.

The risk of severe illness due to respiratory viruses is currently high for people 18 years of age and under and very high for adults aged 18 to 64, according to PHO. The risk is expected to increase in the short term for both age groups.

In Grey-Bruce, surveillance data also shows an increase in influenza activity with over 130 confirmed cases since the start of the respiratory illness season in September. Nearly 70% of those cases were reported in the past two weeks, including 40 cases reported in the past week alone.

Given the heightened risk, flu testing is prioritized for those at highest risk of developing severe complications from the virus.

Two Influenza A outbreaks have also been declared at local long-term care and retirement homes in recent weeks. One of those outbreaks has been declared over.

Both the flu vaccine and latest XXB.1.5-containing COVID-19 vaccine are recommended for individuals aged six months and older.

Grey Bruce Public Health has developed an online map of pharmacies that are providing both vaccines.

Public Health advises a multi-layered approach of protection to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, including vaccination, staying home when sick, cleaning hands and disinfecting high-touch surfaces frequently, and practicing coughing and sneezing etiquette.