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Second Wave Of H1N1 Has Arrived In Ontario, Officials Say

Flu activity in Ontario is mounting, from an increasing number of confirmed cases to more people calling in sick to work – clear signs the second wave of the H1N1 flu has arrived in Ontario, provincial health officials said Friday.

“We are seeing that more people are visiting their health-care providers with influenza-like illness and more people are being hospitalized with complications from the flu in Ontario,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Arlene King said.

The number of deaths in the province since April has risen as well, she said. The number was stable at 24 for “quite a few weeks,” and now it is at 28, King said.

“Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a couple more deaths and a few more hospitalizations,” she said.

“At our low ebb we had about 14 people in hospital and now we’ve got … 31 people who are currently in hospital.”

There are 439 people who have been hospitalized with confirmed cases of swine flu, and all but 31 of those people had been discharged as of Wednesday, King said.

The average age of people who have come down with swine flu (in lab confirmed cases) is 18, she said. The average age of hospitalization has been 28 and the average age of death – though rare – has been 57.

Dr. Vivek Goel, the president and CEO of the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, said while there is some debate about when the second wave actually started, there has clearly been an increase in activity.

“Over the last couple of weeks there’s certainly been an increase of activity in terms of requisitions coming into the labs for testing as well as through other means that we have: hearing about visits to emergency rooms (and) absenteeism from schools and workplaces,” Goel said Friday.

Ottawa approved the H1N1 vaccine on Wednesday, and King said 722,000 doses of the vaccine will have arrived at province’s 36 local health units by day’s end Friday. The province expects to receive a second shipment of vaccine some time next week.

The vaccine will be available to certain high-risk groups starting Monday, though vaccination programs differ from region to region.

People who should be immunized first include adults 65 and under with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, healthy children six months to under five years old, health-care workers and people in remote or isolated communities, King said.

That list also includes people who care for or come into contact with high-risk people who can’t be immunized.

Last Friday, health officials in British Columbia said the second wave of H1N1 had arrived in their province.

The CBC said Friday that it would be cancelling its annual “Take Your Kid to Work” day program in Toronto this year “to prevent any unfortunate coincidence between H1N1 infection and the kids’ presence.”