Since the first cases of the new variant of the virus were announced last month, Toronto Public Health has been doing its due diligence. They have had a couple of flu seasons up to now, with various strains of the virus that have affected the city, and they are anticipating what this next season may hold.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that the Northwest and Northwest Atlantic hemagglutinin — the nerve endings that line up muscles to transmit signals that transmit pain and help deliver oxygen and nutrients — are prime targets for the flu virus, and even though the virus isn’t showing up in people quite as quickly, it is still a “dangerous illness.”
As I explained in a column for The New York Times last month, experts anticipate that the new type of flu virus will rapidly spread, thanks to the fact that it is easily spread. The virus has “no genetic barrier around it,” the CDC has said.
The new strain, however, is not as capable of bringing down the immune system in a way as the previous version of the flu. The flu season is not usually as severe as a typical winter, which is why it’s unclear how many people will get the flu this year.
An end is in sight, but time is running out. By Thursday, the Toronto Public Health had received instructions from the Public Health Minister of Health that help them in their planning. As such, the Toronto Public Health is gearing up to offer the flu vaccine to children ages 5 to 11.
The vaccine will target the new strain as well as standard strains of the virus, and will be delivered in early January. The first batch is scheduled to arrive on Christmas Eve, and another batch will arrive on the same day as the first batch.
The Health Minister of Health extended the deadline for the vaccine following the update. The department originally said that everyone over 6 months old will receive the flu vaccine in January, but it has now extended that date to January 7.
Children under the age of 5 already receive flu shots and the shots are recommended for everyone up to age 65. Children between 5 and 6 months can get the shot.
Public Health said that the city has started getting feedback from pharmacists on how to best inform those who are eligible to receive the vaccine, as well as those who haven’t been vaccinated in the past.
“Our goal remains to protect all residents and put on a strong guard against possible illnesses from this influenza virus,” Public Health Ontario said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the situation continues to build for another year of flu. The World Health Organization said this week that it has identified a new circulating strain of the flu, bringing a different pattern to the last three years. The new strain is now present in 115 countries, including dozens of South American countries.