790 Niagara Falls residents hospitalized with flu

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN • Updated 25th December 2016

More than 700 residents in the Niagara Falls area have been infected with a rare illness linked to a national anti-flu vaccine campaign that has been criticized by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The reporting period began December 18 and has continued for a third day with more than 600 cases counted in the Niagara Falls, Ontario, area.

Although no deaths have been reported in Ontario, the CDC said that nine total cases have been reported and that six infants have become ill.

The agency issued an advisory last month warning people to avoid receiving the shot, saying that while it was safe, there had been an “extensive” outbreak of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder that affects the nervous system and affects the muscles.

The CDC said the shots may have been “exacerbating the illness.”

Ontario health authorities said Saturday that in that 36-hour period that ended at 3 p.m. local time, 514 people reported feeling ill with Guillain-Barre in the Niagara Falls area.

When a vaccine causes this many cases in just one day, it’s “an unusual situation,” said Dr. James Talbot, head of the Ontario regional health authority.

Talbot said that as a precaution, they are not reporting that any of the illnesses are linked to the vaccine because they cannot tell if the people are getting an adverse reaction to the drug or to the actual vaccine itself.

“Every family should vaccinate their infants and children with the flu, even if the vaccine is safe,” he said.

Up to 1,000 people in Ontario have had the flu, with about 50 of them ending up in the hospital, Talbot said.

The number of people in the Niagara Falls area said to have been sickened by the flu since December 18 is 700, with an additional nine cases reported.

A one-day reporting period remains in effect until December 30 for further information.

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