HSE public health and director of HPSC Dr Kevin Kelleher said that data showed that flu levels were likely to increase over the coming weeks when flu begins to actively circulate in the community.
"It's a different season, different profile". At this point in the 2017-2018 flu season, 46 states were reporting widespread flu activity, there were 13.7 flu hospitalizations per 100,000 people and nearly 6% of doctor's visits were related to the flu. Those at higher risk of flu complications include children under five, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. "People with symptoms should stay at home and children should not attend school if showing signs of flu". That's more than double the 195 logged during the same period in 2017.
However, these figures reflect only cases in which testing was performed; many more people who come down with the flu don't seek medical assistance and therefore aren't tested.
"What I can tell you is that the people who have been hospitalized and the deaths that were associated with the flu this year are people who have not been immunized, a majority of them have not been immunized", said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health for New Brunswick.
Traditionally, the H1N1 component is better at halting the spread of that strain of the virus, compared to H3N2, which has a greater propensity to genetically mutate, often in the manufacturing process. Flu shots tend to work better against H1N1 than they do against H3N2, so higher early-season vaccination rates may mean that fewer people are getting sick.
"So there is no reason why people should not get the flu shot this year". Healthcare workers should also get the vaccine to protect themselves and those that they care for.
Experts say it takes about two weeks to build up immunity against the virus after getting vaccinated.