Influenza A continues to strain the Brantford General Hospital and The Willett during an abnormally early flu season.
“It’s hitting us early and it’s hitting us hard,” Jim Hornell, president and CEO of the Brant Community Healthcare System said during a media conference at the BGH on Thursday. “Between Oct. 25 and Dec. 18, we have had 71 lab-confirmed cases of influenza A. We had none at this time last year.”
Thursday’s media conference was the second in two weeks BCHS officials have held to update the status of influenza A in the Brant community.
Health care officials have implemented an incident management team to handle the spike in patients admitted to hospital with the flu, Hornell said.
“We don’t implement our incident management team on a whim,” Hornell said. “This is something we’re taking very seriously. We have patients isolated throughout the hospital. We want to advise the public to not visit patients if they’re not feeling well.”
Officials are coming up with contingency plans that will aim to limit the spread of the virus within the hospital by redeploying staff, isolating infected patients and increasing cleaning practices.
“We had more patients in isolation on Sunday than not,” Hornell said. “The best defence is the vaccine. This is not business as usual. These are tough times. We will be limiting the number of visitors patients can see.”
Hornell said the virus is also hitting County of Brant residents, who are showing up in high numbers at The Willett.
“This morning, there were a lot of kids in the waiting room at The Willett and they looked awful,” Hornell said.
Dr. Tom Szakacs, infectious diseases specialist with the BCHS, said the confirmed cases in the hospital represent “just the tip of the iceberg.”
“There may be 100 more cases for every one of these cases,” Szakacs said. “For some, it can look like a common cold, but for others, it can infect the heart, cause pneumonias and lead to death. Most people feel sick for about five days to a week.”
Breathing difficulty, lowered consciousness, blue lips, cold feet and continuous vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms that require medical attention, Szakacs said.
And the flu season has not yet reached its peak.
“Once we hit our peak, it could last for weeks or months,” Szakacs said. “Even if you make it through this wave, you could get another, different virus in January or February.”
Brantford Mayor Chris Friel said he wished he would have got his flu shot earlier this season after recently suffering from the virus.
“I went down for two weeks,” Friel said. “First, because of my own stupidity and, secondly, because I didn’t take care of myself. I can’t remember ever feeling that bad. We don’t want the community to be scared, we just want them to be smart and safe.”
The Brant County Health Unit is running flu shot clinics from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 by appointment. Call 519-753-4937 to book an appointment.