The medial officer of health with Peterborough Public Health has declared a community-wide influenza outbreak.
Dr. Rosana Salvaterra says an increase in the number of confirmed cases of influenza prompted the declaration on Thursday evening.
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“We now have influenza outbreaks at four long-term care homes in our area, and have seen an increased number of patients presenting at the PRHC Emergency Department with influenza-like illness,” Salvaterra said.
“We have been seeing an increase in influenza cases ever since the Christmas holiday began and now we have enough evidence to believe there is widespread transmission occurring.”
Salvaterra said one reason for the increase in cases could be this year’s flu vaccine not being a strong match with circulating strains. She said all long-term care homes have instructed staff who did not get a flu shot to take antiviral medication.
“Antivirals can be effective as a second line treatment to prevent influenza spread when outbreaks occur or to treat an influenza infection, if used early,” she said. “Hopefully, most caregivers have been immunized but if not, antivirals, masks and good hand washing can help protect those who are vulnerable.”
For those who are feeling unwell, Salvaterra recommends staying home.
She cautions that people with compromised immune systems, chronic diseases, or women in their last trimesters of pregnancy are at greater risk of hospitalization and death from influenza.
Anyone who has symptoms of influenza and risk factors for severe illness or complications should seek medical care as soon as possible.
“Physicians and nurse practitioners are prescribing antivirals for patients who might benefit from them, but this needs to be done within the first 24 to 48 hours of the illness,” she said.
For more information about infection control and influenza, visit www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca and click on “Immunization” and then “Influenza”.