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Report: big jump in flu deaths last winter

With another flu season upon us, a clearer picture of just how deadly last winter’s flu season was for London and Middlesex County has emerged.

According to a report going to the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s (MLHU) Board of Health on Thursday, the 2017-2018 flu season claimed 44 lives, almost three times more than the 16 flu-related deaths recorded the previous season.

The report calls the 2017-2018 flu season “the most substantial in recent years.”

In total, there were 870 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza that resulted in 464 hospitalizations, 71 confirmed outbreaks at local facilities, and 44 deaths.

“Middlesex-London cases ranged in age from 6-weeks to 102-years-old,” the report states. “Those aged 65 years and over accounted for 60% of all cases and 70% of hospitalizations. There were 44 deaths reported among individuals with laboratory-confirmed influenza, all among those 50 years of age and over.”

Flu activity peaked during late December and January. Both influenza A and B circulated at the same time, and each accounted for approximately half of all cases, the report said.

The 2017-2018 figures are a significant increase from the previous years. During the 2016-2017 flu season, there were 480 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza that resulted in 258 hospitalizations, 40 confirmed outbreaks at local facilities, and 16 deaths.

In an effort to avoid another deadly flu season, health officials began distributing the influenza vaccine for the 2018-19 season in early October. This year’s flu shot is a quadrivalent influenza vaccine, which offers protection against two strains of A and two strains of B influenza. It is available to everyone aged 6 months and over.

In addition to getting the flu shot, health officials recommend area residents wash their hands more often, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on a regular basis. Anyone feeling sick is also advised to stay home and cover their mouth when coughing and sneezing

Flu shots are available for free from doctors or nurse practitioners, pharmacies, and the health unit. For more information about the flu and where to get the vaccine, visit ontario.ca/flu.