Thirty hospitalized for ‘flu in Laval

Emergency overloaded during severe holiday outbreak

By Robert Frank

Laval was hit hard by a massive outbreak of influenza during the holiday period, jamming the emergency ward at the Cité de la santé superhospital.

“We were operating at 116 percent of capacity today,” hospital spokeswoman Johanne Paré told The Suburban in an interview, Jan. 11. “That’s down from last week, when the emergency room was operating at as much as 159 percent of capacity.”

She observed that the numbers can go up and down, and was unable to specify whether the decline in the number of cases means that the outbreak will soon end. She urged people with non-urgent illnesses to consider visiting a local medical clinic rather going to the hospital’s emergency ward.

“About 10-15 new cases of influenza showed up daily during the holidays,” she said, “lengthening the amount of time that a patient had to wait before being seen by a doctor.”

Paré reported that although last week the number of cases physicians were seeing declined to three per day, it does not necessarily mean that the current outbreak is over.

She added that 30 people whose lives were at risk were admitted and 15 remain hospitalized, due to the ‘flu.

“Many of them suffer from chronic illness or heart disease,” she said.

Paré noted that the Infosanté health information service also saw a spike in the number of telephone queries that it received from the public.

“During the holidays, there was an 18 percent increase in the number of calls about the ‘flu and infectious diseases.”

She observed that the hospital might see another upsurge in the number of ‘flu cases in February.

“The current bout started just before the holiday period,” Paré explained “when people frequently shake hands or exchange kisses on the cheek, significantly increasing the pace of transmission of the disease.”

Public Health Agency of Canada statistics show a very early spike in the ‘flu season,” senior media relations officer Sean Upton told The Suburban in a subsequent interview. “It’s too early to tell whether this ‘flu season will be worse than previous years or when it will peak.”

PHAC maps show the outbreaks were particularly virulent in southern Quebec and southern Alberta. Upton stated 31 regions in Canada reported widespread outbreaks in 2012, compared with 2011. Canada-wide hospitalization for the ‘flu soared from just two in 2011 to 106 in 2012.

“It is important to remember that the seasonal influenza vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect against influenza viruses,” he said. “Everyone over the age of six months is encouraged to get a ‘flu shot every year, as it offers the best protection against ‘flu viruses.”

Paré concurred, reporting that “public health officials have found that the latest version of the ‘flu virus has proved effective 60-80 percent of the time.”

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