Flu bug spreads through Maritimes with N.B. the hardest hit

Doctor holding a sign that reads

This year's flu season is spreading by leaps and bounds across Canada with 13,800 cases being reported so far.

In the Maritimes, New Brunswick is being especially hard hit as there have already been four deaths.

Between the end of August and now there have seen 871 cases, with 292 identified last week alone.

In Nova Scotia, 52 cases were confirmed, with 16 in the last week.

For P.E.I., 39 cases were reported, 20 of them in the first week of 2019.

“We are giving a quadri-valent vaccine, which means there are four different strains in it, and it changes from year to year, so you really need to get a new flu shot every year,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer.

Last year, two different strains of the virus were circulating at the same time -- influenza A and influenza B.

This year, it has been predominantly influenza A, and in particular, the H1N1 strain.

“This particular strain is particularly problematic for younger children and young adults,” said pharmacist Paul Bowman.

“They're more susceptible to this virus than other members of the population.”

New Brunswick Public Health says its distributed over 274,000 flu vaccines through family physicians, pharmacists and public health offices.

Still, many opt not to get it.

“They say they’ve never been sick so, ‘why should I get it?’” Bowman said.

“Or you always hear anecdotally I got the flu shot one year and it made me sick which of course, there's not science behind that. Or ‘I got the flu shot and I still got sick.’”

And while it is your best line of defence against the flu, it won't completely rule out your chances of getting sick.

“I got the flu shot anyway, and I got the flu,” said Norm McKnight. “I caught it from my granddaughter.

Meaghan Pike has two young children.

“I want to make sure that we're protected,” she said. “And I have gotten a few times really, really sick, so I'd like to avoid that again.”

There has been an influenza outbreak at Moncton's George Dumont University and, in hopes of avoiding further problems, the hospital has suspended visits to the psychiatry unit. The suspension will remain in effect until further notice and only applies to that unit.

Health-care providers say it's not too late to get your shot so you're best protected for this flu season, which runs until April.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jessica Ng.