Quebec is not currently registering any flu cases, a situation that is both exceptional and completely normal according to experts.
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“No case of influenza reported, it is quite exceptional, I have never seen it in 25 years at this time of the year”, underlines Dr. Guy Boivin, microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at the CHU de Québec.
At the same date last year, the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ) recorded nearly 2,000 cases in hospital laboratories in the province.
Dr Gaston De Serres points out that efforts against COVID-19, such as masks, hand washing and distancing, are helping to repel a less contagious virus like influenza.
The same thing was observed in the southern hemisphere this summer, specifies the researcher of the INSPQ.
That doesn’t mean there are absolutely no cases of the flu in the entire province, but the cases would be minimal, since hospitals haven’t detected any. And Dr. Boivin specifies that a patient who tests negative for COVID-19, but presenting the same symptoms, also undergoes tests to detect influenza.
Flu vs COVID-19
If the transmission of COVID-19 continues despite everything, it is because it is a virus with a higher reproduction rate.
For example, seasonal influenza has a reproduction rate (Rt) of around 1.5 usually, while the Rt of COVID-19 is more like around 3. That is, an infected person will make three more people sick.
Thus, the health measures taken in Quebec show that they are effective in completely stifling the flu virus and keeping the Rt of COVID-19 at less than 2, for the moment according to data from the INSPQ.
The whole country is living the same situation according to Canadian public health data.
In mid-December, it had 47 detections of the flu, compared to the average of more than 4,000 for the previous years.
“All indicators of influenza activity remain exceptionally low for this time of year […] To date, there is no evidence of the community spread of influenza, ”reads the latest report from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Dr Guy Boivin warns, however, that influenza sometimes presents itself in waves and that there is nothing to indicate that the virus could not come back in force in February or March.
This would be bad news, says the doctor, since studies have shown that it is possible to contract both the flu and COVID-19. And these double infections are more difficult on patients, continues the microbiologist and infectious disease specialist.