Influenza cases still climbing, first death reported in Sask.

Flu cases are still on the rise in Saskatchewan, according to the Ministry of Health.

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Saskatchewan has reported its first influenza-related death this fall, as the number of cases continues to soar above other respiratory viruses.

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According to the most recent Community Respiratory Illness Surveillance Program report, delivered by the Ministry of Health, an individual in the age range of 50 or higher has died due to influenza.

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The report, issued on Nov. 24, reflects a reporting period from Nov. 6 to Nov. 19 and shows that influenza infections are steadily climbing while COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are lagging.

Influenza remains the prevalent respiratory virus, with the highest test positivity of 34.2 percent. Cases of the flu increased from 68 to 635 in a four-week period, an increase of nearly 90 percent since the beginning of October and up from the 192 cases reported on Nov. 10.

Almost half of those cases are in individuals under the age of 19, a decrease from 61 percent reported two weeks ago.

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Melfort area reports the highest test positivity for the flu at 88 percent. Regina and Saskatoon are seeing 44.5 and 37 percent, respectively.

Rhinovirus, or the common cold, has plateaued.

Overall COVID-19 test positivity has decreased to 7.2 percent, compared to a previous 9.9 percent. Omicron remains the most prevalent variant.

Saskatoon wastewater levels are still reporting the highest viral load in the province, but the “trajectory is decreasing” province-wide, said the report.

Viral loads in the North Battleford, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw areas are marked as moderate, while Regina and the Yorkton and Melville areas are moderate-high.

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Emergency rooms have seen more patients due to respiratory-related illness in the past two weeks, and weekly visits have more than doubled since the end of October. Calls to 811 HealthLine have also increased, as have hospitalizations.

Of those admitted to hospital in the past two weeks with flu symptoms, 37 percent were under the age of 19 and 40 percent were over 60 years old.

Total hospitalizations are at 102 patients with influenza and 140 with COVID-19 positivity.

Uptake of the flu vaccine increased four percent from data provided by public health last week, with 19 percent of Saskatchewan residents having received their flu shot this year.

COVID-19 boosters remain stagnant, with 46 percent of the population considered to have an up-to-date vaccine.

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Despite announcements made last week by public health, school absenteeism data was not included in this week’s report, due to a “data quality issue.”

The Ministry of Health said that students record late attendances as absent, which inflated the numbers and made the data incorrect.

“The absenteeism indicator information will be included in the report once rectified,” said the ministry statement.

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