After disappearing last year doctors unsure how bad flu season will get

News Sep 24, 2021 by Maria Iqbal Hamilton Spectator

After the flu virtually disappeared in Hamilton last year, doctors aren’t sure what will happen this time around.

Masking and physical distancing are still in force, though with no more lockdown, there’s a higher potential for transmission.

With little flu going around last year, there are concerns that young children have no immunity against the virus or that people may not see the vaccine as a priority.

“It does beg the question, are we setting ourselves up for a bad flu season?” said Dr. Marek Smieja an infectious diseases physician at Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “I’m actually optimistic.”

“We will likely see the flu come back ... (but) it might not be as bad as prior years,” agreed Dr. Zain Chagla, infectious diseases physician at St. Joe’s.

Australia, which has its flu season about six months ahead of Canada, has seen little flu this year, which points to a relatively mild season locally, the doctors say. And unlike COVID, which can spread through asymptomatic infections, the flu tends to spread from people who are actually sick — so if people stay home when they’re sick, that should reduce spread.

The flu shot remains important to prevent hospitalizations and death, which is important to reduce pressure on hospitals, both doctors said.

Vulnerable groups who are eligible for third doses of the COVID vaccine are also more vulnerable to getting sicker with the flu, so Chagla said they should consider getting their flu shot, too. He noted that conditions such as pneumonia, heart attacks and strokes get worse in flu season, likely because of the virus.

“We don’t want to be dealing with both COVID and flu at the same time,” Smieja said.

However, another virus which mostly affects infants is raising concern. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) disappeared during the pandemic, but there’s been a surge in Australia and the southern United States.

There’s no vaccine or effective treatment for the virus, which causes difficulty breathing in children under two — especially those born premature or who have heart or lung problems. It is a leading cause of hospitalizations for respiratory virus in that group.

Cases have already begun to appear in Canada, Smieja said, with the virus expected to peak from December to February. RSV tends to spread from older children to the more vulnerable younger group, he added.

Chagla said they will run into problems if the viruses peak at the same time. “We don’t have a lot of pediatric beds,” he said.

“Kids’ll do fine for the most part ... But that’s a precious health care resource that obviously we would like to have going into COVID-19,” he said.

At a downtown pharmacy, Priya Sandhu is gearing up to offer flu shots starting early October, alongside COVID shots.

“With hospitalizations going up and hospitals being overwhelmed, we certainly don’t want to add the flu into that,” she said.

The clinic at Pharmasave Hamilton Medical Arts will have a second set of staff offering the flu shot, Sandhu said. People can get either COVID or flu shot by walk-in or appointment.

Anyone six months or older can get the flu shot from a doctor. At a pharmacy, the minimum age is five years. People at higher-risk, including those 65-plus, can talk to a health care provider about getting a high-dose flu shot.

After disappearing last year doctors unsure how bad flu season will get

With little flu going around last year, there are concerns that young children have no immunity against the virus or that people may not see the vaccine as a priority.

News Sep 24, 2021 by Maria Iqbal Hamilton Spectator

After the flu virtually disappeared in Hamilton last year, doctors aren’t sure what will happen this time around.

Masking and physical distancing are still in force, though with no more lockdown, there’s a higher potential for transmission.

With little flu going around last year, there are concerns that young children have no immunity against the virus or that people may not see the vaccine as a priority.

“It does beg the question, are we setting ourselves up for a bad flu season?” said Dr. Marek Smieja an infectious diseases physician at Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “I’m actually optimistic.”

“We will likely see the flu come back ... (but) it might not be as bad as prior years,” agreed Dr. Zain Chagla, infectious diseases physician at St. Joe’s.

Australia, which has its flu season about six months ahead of Canada, has seen little flu this year, which points to a relatively mild season locally, the doctors say. And unlike COVID, which can spread through asymptomatic infections, the flu tends to spread from people who are actually sick — so if people stay home when they’re sick, that should reduce spread.

The flu shot remains important to prevent hospitalizations and death, which is important to reduce pressure on hospitals, both doctors said.

Vulnerable groups who are eligible for third doses of the COVID vaccine are also more vulnerable to getting sicker with the flu, so Chagla said they should consider getting their flu shot, too. He noted that conditions such as pneumonia, heart attacks and strokes get worse in flu season, likely because of the virus.

“We don’t want to be dealing with both COVID and flu at the same time,” Smieja said.

However, another virus which mostly affects infants is raising concern. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) disappeared during the pandemic, but there’s been a surge in Australia and the southern United States.

There’s no vaccine or effective treatment for the virus, which causes difficulty breathing in children under two — especially those born premature or who have heart or lung problems. It is a leading cause of hospitalizations for respiratory virus in that group.

Cases have already begun to appear in Canada, Smieja said, with the virus expected to peak from December to February. RSV tends to spread from older children to the more vulnerable younger group, he added.

Chagla said they will run into problems if the viruses peak at the same time. “We don’t have a lot of pediatric beds,” he said.

“Kids’ll do fine for the most part ... But that’s a precious health care resource that obviously we would like to have going into COVID-19,” he said.

At a downtown pharmacy, Priya Sandhu is gearing up to offer flu shots starting early October, alongside COVID shots.

“With hospitalizations going up and hospitals being overwhelmed, we certainly don’t want to add the flu into that,” she said.

The clinic at Pharmasave Hamilton Medical Arts will have a second set of staff offering the flu shot, Sandhu said. People can get either COVID or flu shot by walk-in or appointment.

Anyone six months or older can get the flu shot from a doctor. At a pharmacy, the minimum age is five years. People at higher-risk, including those 65-plus, can talk to a health care provider about getting a high-dose flu shot.

After disappearing last year doctors unsure how bad flu season will get

With little flu going around last year, there are concerns that young children have no immunity against the virus or that people may not see the vaccine as a priority.

News Sep 24, 2021 by Maria Iqbal Hamilton Spectator

After the flu virtually disappeared in Hamilton last year, doctors aren’t sure what will happen this time around.

Masking and physical distancing are still in force, though with no more lockdown, there’s a higher potential for transmission.

With little flu going around last year, there are concerns that young children have no immunity against the virus or that people may not see the vaccine as a priority.

“It does beg the question, are we setting ourselves up for a bad flu season?” said Dr. Marek Smieja an infectious diseases physician at Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “I’m actually optimistic.”

“We will likely see the flu come back ... (but) it might not be as bad as prior years,” agreed Dr. Zain Chagla, infectious diseases physician at St. Joe’s.

Australia, which has its flu season about six months ahead of Canada, has seen little flu this year, which points to a relatively mild season locally, the doctors say. And unlike COVID, which can spread through asymptomatic infections, the flu tends to spread from people who are actually sick — so if people stay home when they’re sick, that should reduce spread.

The flu shot remains important to prevent hospitalizations and death, which is important to reduce pressure on hospitals, both doctors said.

Vulnerable groups who are eligible for third doses of the COVID vaccine are also more vulnerable to getting sicker with the flu, so Chagla said they should consider getting their flu shot, too. He noted that conditions such as pneumonia, heart attacks and strokes get worse in flu season, likely because of the virus.

“We don’t want to be dealing with both COVID and flu at the same time,” Smieja said.

However, another virus which mostly affects infants is raising concern. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) disappeared during the pandemic, but there’s been a surge in Australia and the southern United States.

There’s no vaccine or effective treatment for the virus, which causes difficulty breathing in children under two — especially those born premature or who have heart or lung problems. It is a leading cause of hospitalizations for respiratory virus in that group.

Cases have already begun to appear in Canada, Smieja said, with the virus expected to peak from December to February. RSV tends to spread from older children to the more vulnerable younger group, he added.

Chagla said they will run into problems if the viruses peak at the same time. “We don’t have a lot of pediatric beds,” he said.

“Kids’ll do fine for the most part ... But that’s a precious health care resource that obviously we would like to have going into COVID-19,” he said.

At a downtown pharmacy, Priya Sandhu is gearing up to offer flu shots starting early October, alongside COVID shots.

“With hospitalizations going up and hospitals being overwhelmed, we certainly don’t want to add the flu into that,” she said.

The clinic at Pharmasave Hamilton Medical Arts will have a second set of staff offering the flu shot, Sandhu said. People can get either COVID or flu shot by walk-in or appointment.

Anyone six months or older can get the flu shot from a doctor. At a pharmacy, the minimum age is five years. People at higher-risk, including those 65-plus, can talk to a health care provider about getting a high-dose flu shot.