Saskatchewan influenza activity on the rise with experts urging flu vaccine
Influenza activity has begun to surge across the country and Saskatchewan is no exception.
According to surveillance data conducted by the province on influenza rates, confirmed cases this flu season are up 60 per cent compared to the same time last year.
There have been two ICU admissions since Sept. 1, two outbreaks in long-term care homes and experts predict things are about to get even worse.
“The flu is picking up now in the middle of December and we think it’s going to peak towards the end of the year or early in the new year,” Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s medical health officer, said.
There has been a concentration of 47 cases in Saskatoon and surrounding area, also formerly known as the Saskatoon Health Region. Regina and surrounding area has had 17 confirmed cases so far this flu season.
Statistics also gathered by the provincial government show that recorded flu rates are the highest among the working population, aged 20 to 64 years old.
“People cough and it’s very easy for the virus to transmit from one person to another,” Dr. Simon Kapaj, deputy medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said in Saskatoon.
“Always our message is if you’re working in hospitals or long-term care centres, people that are sick need to avoid these areas.”
This influenza season has been especially bad because it started early, said experts, and because of the strains in circulation.
“The concern with the H3N2 strain is it leads to serious complications and this is especially for seniors and individuals with chronic illness such as diabetes, lung disease, heart disease and so on,” Kapaj added.
All more the reason, health officials said, to get the flu shot ahead of the holiday season to protect you and the ones you love.
The vaccine’s effectiveness can vary based on what virus strains are in circulation, both doctors admitted, but say it’s still better than nothing.
“It’s always a good idea to get the flu shot especially if you have a high risk condition and if it’s a good match the protection is higher,” Shahab said.
“If it’s not such a good match – you’re still protected to some extent.”
Approximately 340,000 doses of vaccine were ordered by the province for this flu season; of that 250,000 doses have been administered.
“Which is 11 per cent higher than the similar period last year or the year before that when 225,000 had been given,” Shahab said.
The vaccine also takes about two week to provide full protection against the flu so it’s advised you get a shot sooner rather than later.
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