The Canadian health authorities said at least 1,100 people in four provinces — Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and New Brunswick — have been infected by the same strain of bacteria in people who caught the flu. This outbreak, which is among the largest ever in Canada, is largely contained in the three provinces. It is of particular concern to researchers who are now working to isolate how this new strain and the underlying cause (obesity) linked it to such a high rate of infection in a short amount of time.
The virus is caused by the drug-resistant strain of a particular virus, known as ossacavir. Experts believe the outbreak could have been brought on by exposure to the COVID-19 virus while undergoing medical treatment or by sharing contaminated equipment. While the strain still has not been officially identified in the United States, those infected in Canada have been traveling — some extensively, especially in Vancouver.
Nate Whitling, who serves as director of epidemiology for Cidovus, which identified the COVID-19 strain, said that the latest numbers for this strain — “orders of magnitude greater than anything else previously” in Canada — take it to the top of the list of drug-resistant flu viruses worldwide. Overall there have been 77 deaths from COVID-19, but to date only 20 people in the United States have tested positive for the strain, Whitling told CNN.
But there is good news in all of this news.
The affected Canada, Quebec and Ontario have all ramped up vaccination efforts — their targets being six to eight people per household. And if they need any additional motivation for getting vaccinated, a study published in the Lancet that looked at the results of a previous flu vaccine trial gives it to them.
The three-year test, which tested the seasonal vaccine in those infected with H1N1, the strain of swine flu that rocked the world in 2009, revealed that the vaccine actually helped people fight the illness. According to the results, people vaccinated with a seasonal flu vaccine were less likely to die than people who had not been vaccinated. The study was conducted in Britain, Canada and Australia.
The switch to a vaccine that prevented more severe cases of the flu is an important one and can’t be overlooked. One of the most valuable benefits of the seasonal vaccine, for those less well-versed in it, is that it doesn’t require needle prick, which makes it more convenient.