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Atypical spring spike in local influenza cases subsiding

'I've never seen anything like this,' said Dr. Chirico as Influenza A cases rapidly increased, 'especially in May.'
20200325 north bay parry sound district health unit sign turl(1)
The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit

During a recent meeting, Dr. Jim Chirico shared some good news with the members of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit's Board of Health.

"We were seeing a significant increase in Influenza A activity in May and that has trailed off, thankfully," said the Medical Officer of Health. "Last week, there weren't any cases reported."

Although the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases is still well behind pre-pandemic levels, it was the late arrival of the flu season that caught the attention of health officials. The Health Unit reported people were still testing positive for influenza well into spring.

See related: Health Unit: Recent positive influenza cases 'uncommon' for this time of year

"I've never seen anything like this, especially in May," observed Chirico then about the rise in confirmed cases of Influenza A in the district from seven cases on April 30 to 77, in late May.

In the local 2019–20 influenza season (Sept. 1, 2019 – August 31, 2020), 142 confirmed cases of influenza were identified among residents in North Bay Parry Sound. In the 2020–21 influenza season, falling entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, one confirmed case of Influenza B was identified locally. 

In this 2021–22 influenza season, despite a lag in updating its website, the Health Unit confirms it has recorded 79 confirmed cases of Influenza A as of June 18 but just two since late May.

The timing of the late-spring resurgence of influenza witnessed was unprecedented.

"Usually we see cases starting in September and maybe peaking in January or thereabouts and then steadily starting to decline with maybe a little bit of an increase in the spring of [Influenza] B," said Chirico.

What health officials saw this spring was a shift in the season with cases presenting in March and the following months. May showed the greatest increase and cases steadily rose.

"We didn't have hardly anything until this spring," added Chirico. "Bear in mind we don't do a lot of mass testing, so the numbers that I'm quoting are far less than what is circulating in the community."

The Health Unit sends a weekly report weekly on influenza activity in the district to Public Health Ontario. This includes laboratory-confirmed cases and institutional outbreaks. The quoted numbers represent only a portion of the actual number of cases occurring within the district, as these include cases that are confirmed by laboratory testing only. Many people who have influenza either do not seek medical attention or do not get tested by the healthcare provider that diagnosed them.

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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