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Influenza virus still nowhere to be found in Newfoundland and Labrador

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald (Source: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald (Source: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador) - Contributed

Public-health measures related to COVID-19 pandemic, increased flu vaccinations cited as reasons

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A phenomenon first noticed in the spring of 2020 seems to have held, and health officials in this province are crediting the public’s observance of pandemic measures and advice.

Influenza has not shown up in Newfoundland and Labrador since it first dropped off the charts in March of last year.

“On the whole, in the country, we’ve only had a little over 50 cases reported, and I think on average over the past six years, at this point in time in the flu season, I think it’s somewhere around 14,000 cases that we usually see, or are usually reported,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday.

Fitzgerald was flying solo on the COVID-19 live update for the first time since the early days of the pandemic. That's because Health Minister Dr. John Haggie and Premier Andrew Furey are on the campaign trail.


This graph shows that the number of influenza-related hospitalizations in the province dropped off much more quickly than average towards the end of March. (Source: Department of Health and Community Services) - Contributed
This graph shows that the number of influenza-related hospitalizations in the province dropped off much more quickly than average towards the end of March. (Source: Department of Health and Community Services) - Contributed


The lack of flu cases means the Department of Health hasn’t had to update its surveillance data online since last March.

A graph from that period showed an unprecedented decline in flu cases around the time that pandemic measures came in.

“I think a lot of that has to do with the measures that are in place for COVID,” Fitzgerald said. “Of course, all those things that cause the transmission of COVID also cause the transmission of flu.

“It’s not just the flu not spreading across Canada. It’s the flu not spreading across the world,” she added.

Fitzgerald also credited the uptick in flu vaccinations this year, the result of a more focused campaign launched last fall.

As of Jan. 19, 232,292 people in the province have received the flu shot.

@pjackson_nl

Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health for The Telegram.


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