Flu season started late this year but is now in full swing across Saskatchewan and will continue to increase during January.
Sun Country Health Region Medical Health Officer Dr. Shauna Hudson is urging the public to get their flu shot if they haven't already received it, to protect themselves and the people around them.
"It's not too late to get your flu shot. People can call their local Public Health Office to arrange for their flu shot," she says.
All individuals six months of age and older are eligible to receive the flu shot free, through the publicly-funded influenza immunization program. The majority of influenza cases in Saskatchewan are Influenza A H1N1, which is covered by this year's vaccine.
With the H1N1 strain, Dr. Hudson expects that we may see more young children (less than five years of age) and young/middle-aged adults become ill. This is the same strain that first appeared in 2009 and it has been included in influenza vaccines since 2010.
As of January 2, there have been less than five lab-confirmed influenza cases in SCHR and surveillance has shown increased influenza illness in the last couple of weeks. Over-all in Saskatchewan until December 28, there have been 161 lab-confirmed cases including seven hospitalizations of people with severe influenza-related illness, and there were three deaths reported in which influenza was a contributing factor.
People at high risk for complications from influenza include:
• Adults 65 years of age and older;
• People with chronic health conditions, weakened immune systems, or severe obesity;
• Pregnant women (during any trimester and up to 4 weeks post-partum);
• Children from 6 months of age to 59 months of age; and
• Residents of nursing homes.
Vaccination is also recommended for individuals in close contact with high risk groups such as:
• Household and close contacts of infants and persons who are in the risk groups above;
• Health care workers and volunteers; and
• Other occupational groups such as child and day care workers, community health and care providers, and health science students.
People can also protect themselves against seasonal influenza by adopting infection prevention methods such as frequent hand washing, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, cleaning surfaces often and staying at home when they are sick, says Dr. Hudson.
She also reminds people that if they are sick they should not be visiting residents in long-term care facilities within the Region.
SCHR is also encouraging people who are not immunized to wear a mask when they are visiting patients in our health care facilities to protect our vulnerable residents. Masks are available at the entrances to health care facilities or can be obtained by speaking with the nursing staff.