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Toronto’s top doctor urges residents to get their flu shot

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto attends a news conference in Toronto, on Monday, January 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Toronto’s top doctor is urging residents to get their flu shots ahead of holiday celebrations.

The city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said residents should get their flu vaccine now to maximize their protection against the virus at holiday celebrations.

De Villa said she is “urging Torontonians — in the strongest possible terms — to receive their flu vaccine soon as possible.”

“Vaccination is the strongest defence against getting the flu virus and appointments are available throughout the city of Toronto, including at any one of the six immunization clinics operated by Toronto Public Health,” she said in a press release issued Wednesday.

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The city said if the “current pattern of confirmed influenza infection in Toronto continues, the risk of flu infection is forecasted to peak over the holiday season.”

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According to Toronto Public Health data, there were a total of 512 influenza cases between Nov. 13 and Nov. 19.

During that time period, a test positivity rate of 10.5 per cent was recorded in the city, marking an increase from the week prior when an 8.1 per cent test positivity rate was reported.

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The city said a test positivity rate above five per cent indicates that the virus is “circulating in the community and that the influenza season is well underway.”

“Historically, influenza activity in a region usually peaks within about five weeks of this positivity rate,” the release read. “This means Toronto will likely enter a peak influenza infection period as people gather for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year celebrations.”

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The city said the flu can be “highly contagious” to those who have not been vaccinated, and can cause “serious symptoms” for those with pre-existing conditions, very young children or older adults.

Toronto’s Mayor John Tory echoed De Villa’s remarks, and encouraged residents to get their shot.

“As the holiday season begins, I encourage residents to get their flu vaccine,” he said in a statement. “Please follow the advice of our public health professionals and get vaccinated now — it is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make sure you are protected against the flu this season. We want people to have a happy and healthy holiday season.”

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