Hamilton is in the thick of flu season with doctors in overcrowded hospitals bracing for the next big wave

News Feb 10, 2020 by Joanna Frketich The Hamilton Spectator

Coronavirus has not made an appearance in Hamilton so far this winter but flu is in full swing.

"We're right now in the thick of flu season," said Dr. Anthony Crocco, chief of pediatric emergency at McMaster Children's Hospital. "We've seen the first big wave hit us a couple of weeks ago and we're now starting to feel the second wave come through."

There have been about 500 cases of influenza A in Hamilton at this point in the season and 100 of influenza B.

"I would describe it as typical," said Dr. Bart Harvey, an associate medical officer of health in Hamilton. "We're still in the midst of it."

Crocco estimated it would be at least two to four weeks before influenza starts to drop off.

"It's not too late to get the flu shot," said Harvey. "The request (for more vaccine) from doctors' offices is persisting. The uptake seems to be good."

While flu causes 12,200 hospitalizations in Canada annually and 3,500 deaths, most of the focus this year has instead been on the outbreak of novel coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31.

Concerns about the virus have had wide-spread impacts. Locally, West Highland Church on Garth Street recently cancelled its Chinese and Lunar New Year Celebration that was supposed to take place Feb. 1.

"We are sorry to announce that due to some of our cultural acts cancelling and fears surrounding the coronavirus, we have decided to cancel West Highland's Chinese and Lunar New Year Celebration," read a notice on the church's website. "We will continue to pray for the people of China and all other nations impacted by this health crisis."

At this point, Hamilton Public Health only recommends avoiding public places if you feel sick, which is the same advice for flu.

"The risk of the average Canadian contracting the novel coronavirus at this point is extremely low," said Harvey. "We continue to monitor it."

So far coronavirus has been diagnosed in five patients in Canada — two in British Columbia, two in Toronto and one in London.

"We don't see ourselves joining that group," said Harvey.

But if coronavirus does come to Hamilton there is a plan to monitor, detect and contain the respiratory illness that can cause everything from mild coldlike symptoms to death.

"We're all just sort of on stand by," said Crocco.

He said the local medical community is keeping an eye on the outbreak.

"We're all looking to China and the United States to see what it is we need to know ahead of time," said Crocco. "We've already got procedures in place to mitigate the impact should it hit our shores too."

Harvey says it's understandable that people are on high alert because 2019-nCoV is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

"It's the fear of the unknown," he says. "Flu is familiar."

Public health wants to ensure that the fear doesn't spill over to discrimination against Hamilton's Asian communities.

"Although, the 2019-nCoV outbreak originated in China, this virus is not racially oriented — it is geographically oriented," reads a statement on its website under the heading, "choose solidarity."

"This means that it does not discriminate among people who can be affected," reads the statement. "Unfortunately, during the novel coronavirus outbreak, persons of Chinese heritage (and other Asian countries) have voiced concerns about the potential for discrimination. During times like this, people need to support each other and speak out against any instances of discrimination."

Fear of coronavirus in the community has not yet hit the hospitals. Crocco said parents aren't bringing their kids to the emergency department concerned about coronavirus.

"They know about it but they're not actively worried about it," he said. "Even though it has touched the shores of Canada, it has not affected anybody here. Most people wouldn't know somebody who has suffered from Coronavirus. Most people can say they know somebody who has had influenza."

At this point, Crocco says the severity of illness they are seeing is typical despite early reports that the flu was hitting kids hard this season. But he says it's too soon to say if more kids are getting flu than normal.

"It's still early days for us," said Crocco. "We've got our heads down and we're working hard to keep up with it ...We're all picking up extra shifts."

Hamilton's adult hospitals are overcrowded all year long now, making it harder to cope with the added strain of flu season.

Medical beds at St. Joseph's Healthcare were at114 per cent capacity in January with one in five acute care beds taken up by patients ready to be discharged but with no place to go.

At HHS, medical and surgical beds together were at 111 per cent capacity with 162 patients stuck in hospital waiting for other types of care primarily long term care and home care.

jfrketich@thespec.com

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich

jfrketich@thespec.com

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich

Hamilton is in the thick of flu season with doctors in overcrowded hospitals bracing for the next big wave

Coronavirus is getting more attention than flu despite extremely low risk in Hamilton

News Feb 10, 2020 by Joanna Frketich The Hamilton Spectator

Coronavirus has not made an appearance in Hamilton so far this winter but flu is in full swing.

"We're right now in the thick of flu season," said Dr. Anthony Crocco, chief of pediatric emergency at McMaster Children's Hospital. "We've seen the first big wave hit us a couple of weeks ago and we're now starting to feel the second wave come through."

There have been about 500 cases of influenza A in Hamilton at this point in the season and 100 of influenza B.

"I would describe it as typical," said Dr. Bart Harvey, an associate medical officer of health in Hamilton. "We're still in the midst of it."

Crocco estimated it would be at least two to four weeks before influenza starts to drop off.

"It's not too late to get the flu shot," said Harvey. "The request (for more vaccine) from doctors' offices is persisting. The uptake seems to be good."

While flu causes 12,200 hospitalizations in Canada annually and 3,500 deaths, most of the focus this year has instead been on the outbreak of novel coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31.

Concerns about the virus have had wide-spread impacts. Locally, West Highland Church on Garth Street recently cancelled its Chinese and Lunar New Year Celebration that was supposed to take place Feb. 1.

"We are sorry to announce that due to some of our cultural acts cancelling and fears surrounding the coronavirus, we have decided to cancel West Highland's Chinese and Lunar New Year Celebration," read a notice on the church's website. "We will continue to pray for the people of China and all other nations impacted by this health crisis."

At this point, Hamilton Public Health only recommends avoiding public places if you feel sick, which is the same advice for flu.

"The risk of the average Canadian contracting the novel coronavirus at this point is extremely low," said Harvey. "We continue to monitor it."

So far coronavirus has been diagnosed in five patients in Canada — two in British Columbia, two in Toronto and one in London.

"We don't see ourselves joining that group," said Harvey.

But if coronavirus does come to Hamilton there is a plan to monitor, detect and contain the respiratory illness that can cause everything from mild coldlike symptoms to death.

"We're all just sort of on stand by," said Crocco.

He said the local medical community is keeping an eye on the outbreak.

"We're all looking to China and the United States to see what it is we need to know ahead of time," said Crocco. "We've already got procedures in place to mitigate the impact should it hit our shores too."

Harvey says it's understandable that people are on high alert because 2019-nCoV is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

"It's the fear of the unknown," he says. "Flu is familiar."

Public health wants to ensure that the fear doesn't spill over to discrimination against Hamilton's Asian communities.

"Although, the 2019-nCoV outbreak originated in China, this virus is not racially oriented — it is geographically oriented," reads a statement on its website under the heading, "choose solidarity."

"This means that it does not discriminate among people who can be affected," reads the statement. "Unfortunately, during the novel coronavirus outbreak, persons of Chinese heritage (and other Asian countries) have voiced concerns about the potential for discrimination. During times like this, people need to support each other and speak out against any instances of discrimination."

Fear of coronavirus in the community has not yet hit the hospitals. Crocco said parents aren't bringing their kids to the emergency department concerned about coronavirus.

"They know about it but they're not actively worried about it," he said. "Even though it has touched the shores of Canada, it has not affected anybody here. Most people wouldn't know somebody who has suffered from Coronavirus. Most people can say they know somebody who has had influenza."

At this point, Crocco says the severity of illness they are seeing is typical despite early reports that the flu was hitting kids hard this season. But he says it's too soon to say if more kids are getting flu than normal.

"It's still early days for us," said Crocco. "We've got our heads down and we're working hard to keep up with it ...We're all picking up extra shifts."

Hamilton's adult hospitals are overcrowded all year long now, making it harder to cope with the added strain of flu season.

Medical beds at St. Joseph's Healthcare were at114 per cent capacity in January with one in five acute care beds taken up by patients ready to be discharged but with no place to go.

At HHS, medical and surgical beds together were at 111 per cent capacity with 162 patients stuck in hospital waiting for other types of care primarily long term care and home care.

jfrketich@thespec.com

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich

jfrketich@thespec.com

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich

Hamilton is in the thick of flu season with doctors in overcrowded hospitals bracing for the next big wave

Coronavirus is getting more attention than flu despite extremely low risk in Hamilton

News Feb 10, 2020 by Joanna Frketich The Hamilton Spectator

Coronavirus has not made an appearance in Hamilton so far this winter but flu is in full swing.

"We're right now in the thick of flu season," said Dr. Anthony Crocco, chief of pediatric emergency at McMaster Children's Hospital. "We've seen the first big wave hit us a couple of weeks ago and we're now starting to feel the second wave come through."

There have been about 500 cases of influenza A in Hamilton at this point in the season and 100 of influenza B.

"I would describe it as typical," said Dr. Bart Harvey, an associate medical officer of health in Hamilton. "We're still in the midst of it."

Crocco estimated it would be at least two to four weeks before influenza starts to drop off.

"It's not too late to get the flu shot," said Harvey. "The request (for more vaccine) from doctors' offices is persisting. The uptake seems to be good."

While flu causes 12,200 hospitalizations in Canada annually and 3,500 deaths, most of the focus this year has instead been on the outbreak of novel coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31.

Concerns about the virus have had wide-spread impacts. Locally, West Highland Church on Garth Street recently cancelled its Chinese and Lunar New Year Celebration that was supposed to take place Feb. 1.

"We are sorry to announce that due to some of our cultural acts cancelling and fears surrounding the coronavirus, we have decided to cancel West Highland's Chinese and Lunar New Year Celebration," read a notice on the church's website. "We will continue to pray for the people of China and all other nations impacted by this health crisis."

At this point, Hamilton Public Health only recommends avoiding public places if you feel sick, which is the same advice for flu.

"The risk of the average Canadian contracting the novel coronavirus at this point is extremely low," said Harvey. "We continue to monitor it."

So far coronavirus has been diagnosed in five patients in Canada — two in British Columbia, two in Toronto and one in London.

"We don't see ourselves joining that group," said Harvey.

But if coronavirus does come to Hamilton there is a plan to monitor, detect and contain the respiratory illness that can cause everything from mild coldlike symptoms to death.

"We're all just sort of on stand by," said Crocco.

He said the local medical community is keeping an eye on the outbreak.

"We're all looking to China and the United States to see what it is we need to know ahead of time," said Crocco. "We've already got procedures in place to mitigate the impact should it hit our shores too."

Harvey says it's understandable that people are on high alert because 2019-nCoV is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

"It's the fear of the unknown," he says. "Flu is familiar."

Public health wants to ensure that the fear doesn't spill over to discrimination against Hamilton's Asian communities.

"Although, the 2019-nCoV outbreak originated in China, this virus is not racially oriented — it is geographically oriented," reads a statement on its website under the heading, "choose solidarity."

"This means that it does not discriminate among people who can be affected," reads the statement. "Unfortunately, during the novel coronavirus outbreak, persons of Chinese heritage (and other Asian countries) have voiced concerns about the potential for discrimination. During times like this, people need to support each other and speak out against any instances of discrimination."

Fear of coronavirus in the community has not yet hit the hospitals. Crocco said parents aren't bringing their kids to the emergency department concerned about coronavirus.

"They know about it but they're not actively worried about it," he said. "Even though it has touched the shores of Canada, it has not affected anybody here. Most people wouldn't know somebody who has suffered from Coronavirus. Most people can say they know somebody who has had influenza."

At this point, Crocco says the severity of illness they are seeing is typical despite early reports that the flu was hitting kids hard this season. But he says it's too soon to say if more kids are getting flu than normal.

"It's still early days for us," said Crocco. "We've got our heads down and we're working hard to keep up with it ...We're all picking up extra shifts."

Hamilton's adult hospitals are overcrowded all year long now, making it harder to cope with the added strain of flu season.

Medical beds at St. Joseph's Healthcare were at114 per cent capacity in January with one in five acute care beds taken up by patients ready to be discharged but with no place to go.

At HHS, medical and surgical beds together were at 111 per cent capacity with 162 patients stuck in hospital waiting for other types of care primarily long term care and home care.

jfrketich@thespec.com

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich

jfrketich@thespec.com

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich