Prairie Mountain Health has seen an increase in influenza cases in recent days, but it’s nothing compared to what is happening in Winnipeg, says the health region’s medical officer of health.
"Last week, PMH has seen an increase in clients presenting with influenza-like illness, even to ERs and even some admissions," Dr. Mahmoud Khodaveisi said Tuesday. "But (that) is ... not unusual."
On Tuesday, Vickie Kaminski, the new chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said already high patient volumes at the city’s emergency rooms and urgent care centres could climb during the next few days.
Average daily patient volumes at ERs and urgent cares in December jumped by 120 to a little over 1,000 compared with December 2018, Kaminski said at a news conference.
The situation has caused increased waits for treatment and a strained hospital system, she said, adding respiratory illnesses and two different strains of flu virus are contributing to the jammed up ERs and urgent care centres.
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the WRHA revealed a patient was transported from a Winnipeg ICU to Brandon because of overcrowding.
"In the 90s you had hallway medicine," Kinew tweeted. "Now in 2020 with Brian Pallister you’ve got highway medicine."
He added, "Many rural and northern Manitobans have to travel for health care but it’s usually to a centre with more resources and services, not to one with less. Now the provincial government is looking to export this broken health care system around the province."
Prairie Mountain Health confirmed the transfer in a statement, offering that it is "an example of jurisdictions co-operating with each other and health-care systems working in co-ordination with each other."
They added that patient was not a Winnipeg resident.
Between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, there were 37 cases of reported influenza in Prairie Mountain Health, compared to 88 during the same period in 2018, Khodaveisi said.
Khodaveisi added that this could be because fewer people reported being sick or their symptoms turned out to be something other than the flu.
Khodaveisi noted that between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of people who do not get vaccinated end up with one strain of influenza or another during flu season.
Influenza activity in Manitoba is increasing overall, according to Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living’s season flu report.
For the week of Dec. 22-28 — the last reporting period — patients who tested positive for influenza A increased to 12 per cent from 10 per cent the week of Dec. 8-14 and for influenza B doubled to 28 per cent from 14 per cent.
The highest number of influenza B cases (78 per cent) were reported from Southern Health–Santé Sud regional health authority.
The report noted the observed number of respiratory visits to provincial emergency departments was the highest it has been in the last three flu seasons. The majority of visits were to the Children’s Emergency Department at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Influenza is different from a cold and usually comes on suddenly.
People may experience all or some of these symptoms:
• fever or feeling feverish/chills
• sore throat
• runny or stuffy nose
• muscle or body aches
Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
The CDC notes that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
» email@example.com, with files from the Winnipeg Free Press