Manitoba Health has reported a recent spike in flu activity across the province and says the dominant strain is H1N1.
In the last week of February, Manitoba Health says 21 people were hospitalized because of the flu, and two of them died. But according to Manitoba Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Routledge, these numbers are nothing to panic over.
“When we look at the numbers we’re seeing so far, and we’re really probably in the middle of our wave or the peak, the numbers are pretty consistent in what we’ve seen in other years.”
11 people in the province died from H1N1 in the 2009 pandemic, but Dr. Routledge say the virus has been part of a vaccine for years now and there is a much higher level immunity now than when it first appeared.
“By and large, it’s acting like we would expect. It does tend to impact on younger people a bit more than our typical flu season does. The flu shot this year is quite good. Last year during the course of the season the virus changed so it didn’t match up with the vaccine very well. This year the vaccine matches up quite well with the virus.”
Both victims at the end of February were under the age 65, but the province has not said where in Manitoba they lived or if either of them had the H1N1 strain.
Swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, is a relatively new strain of an influenza virus that causes symptoms similar to the regular flu. It originated in pigs, but is spread primarily from person to person.
Swine flu made headlines in 2009 when it was first discovered in humans and became a pandemic. Pandemics are contagious diseases affecting people throughout the world or on multiple continents at the same time.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the H1N1 pandemic over in August of 2010. Since then, the H1N1 virus has been known as a regular human flu virus. It continues to spread during flu season like other strains of the flu. The flu shot developed each year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) usually includes a vaccination against a type of H1N1 virus.
Like other strains of the flu, H1N1 is highly contagious, allowing it to spread quickly from person to person. A simple sneeze can cause thousands of germs to spread through the air. The virus can linger on tables and surface areas like door knobs, waiting to be picked up.
The best means of dealing with swine flu is to prevent it. Hand sanitization is important to stop the spread of the virus, and staying away from infected people will help stop person-to-person transmission.