(CNN) — As the schools of Canada’s third-largest city prepare for the arrival of the flu, Toronto Public Health (TPS) is working on a plan to prepare for the arrival of B-strain H3N2, which is expected to infect children in higher numbers than A-strain H3N2.
According to the World Health Organization, there is a good chance of a big outbreak if the community is infected early in the season, and B-strain H3N2 has caused some significant epidemics in the past. However, B-strain H3N2 has not been detected in Toronto yet.
Traditionally, Toronto Public Health has worked with retailers to pre-schedule vaccinations. Stores are giving kids a two-dose, “as needed” series.
About 2,000 doses will be distributed in early November, and a “strategic expansion” will follow during the holidays, when a larger, extra-large supply of vaccines is usually given, explained Carol Rose, of the Stop Booloonies campaign.
Children over the age of 5, from kindergarten through to the age of 11, will be vaccinated.
Nearly 10 million people live in Toronto, more than any other city in North America, according to TPS. When the current H3N2 pandemic threat of 2003 created an outbreak that sickened more than 100,000 in the Greater Toronto Area and caused 500 deaths, the public health agency ramped up immunization programs. It has since given more than 1.8 million vaccines for H3N2, between 2013 and 2015.
Canada’s health system is adequate to respond to pandemics, according to the WHO. With 0.3% to 1.3% annual deaths, Canada is rated 6th to 8th worldwide in terms of its sickness rate. However, when compared with Germany’s 1.7% annual sickness rate, Canada is ranked 27th. When compared with the Netherlands’ 2.1% annual sickness rate, Canada ranks 36th.
Several major vaccinations against flu viruses are available, including the influenza shot, which TPS provides free of charge; the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster; the pneumococcal vaccine; and nasal drops for flu.
The 2018-19 flu season will run from October through May, but the exact date may be determined by a variety of factors including weather conditions, since seasonal flu infections tend to be spread by persons who come into contact with nasal droplets from sneezing and coughing.
The WHO has said the number of flu cases will be lower than last year, which was characterized by widespread flu and widespread mortality.
The seasonal flu vaccine for this season should be about 40% effective against the predominant A-and B-strain viruses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It said 80% to 85% of cases that were treated with antiviral drugs this season were people who were not vaccinated.
WHO recommends vaccination for all older adults, people at high risk of flu complications, pregnant women, persons with certain chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, people who work with at-risk groups and health care workers.