Flu cases rise in Maritimes amidst coronavirus concerns

HALIFAX — The number of flu cases continues to rise in the Maritimes. While it’s nothing new during flu season, it’s complicated with coinciding coronavirus concerns.

Originally from Fredericton, Michael Schellenberg is happy to be healthy and free. After flying to Canada from Wuhan, China, in early February, Schellenberg and his young family spent the past two weeks in quarantine at an Ontario military base.

“I have never been to prison, it was a lot more pleasant, but that’s just kind of how it felt,” says Schellenberg. “All the days blended together.”

For Schellenberg’s family, coronavirus is no longer a concern. However, it’s still top of mind for so many others – with doctors in the Maritimes assuring they’re still keeping a watchful eye on the virus.

“Once you get to the hospital, depending on your situation and depending on your symptoms and different criteria, they would be tested based on that.” New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell.

Russell says three people have been tested for coronavirus after presenting similar symptoms, but all three tests came back negative. The number of flu cases, however, continues to rise – nothing new in the month of February.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” says Russell. “And on that note, also, we’re probably two months away from being out of flu season – so now is the time to really have a low threshold for staying at home if you’re unwell.”

In New Brunswick, 1279 flu cases have been confirmed, and there have been five deaths associated with the flu. In Nova Scotia, 164 flu cases have been confirmed, and there have been three deaths associated with the flu. In Prince Edward Island, 107 flu cases have been confirmed, and there has been one death associated with the flu.

The likely reason why New Brunswick has so many more confirmed cases, Dr. Russell says, comes down to how often people are tested:

“Here in New Brunswick we do community testing,” says Russell. “In Nova Scotia, they do testing just for outbreaks and clusters and hospitalized people.”

Russell encourages residents to stay home and rest if they feel unwell and call 811 if symptoms are persistent.

Meanwhile, the department of health says it’s acting out of an excess of caution when testing for coronavirus as Dr. Russell maintains the overall risk to New Brunswick is considered low.

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