The Sun Country Health Region (SCHR) has issued another plea for residents to receive a flu shot in 2014.
Flu season started late this year but is now in full swing across Saskatchewan, and Sun Country expects the number of flu cases will continue to increase in January. 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,” Hudson said. “People can call their local public health office to arrange for their flu shot.”
All individuals six months of age and older are eligible to receive the flu shot for free, through the publicly-funded influenza immunization program. The majority of influenza cases in Saskatchewan have been Influenza A H1N1, which is covered by this year’s vaccine.
With the H1N1 strain, Hudson expects that more young children under the age of five, and young or middle-aged adults, could 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 were less than five lab-confirmed influenza cases in SCHR, and surveillance has shown an increasing number of influenza illnesses in the last couple of weeks.
Overall in Saskatchewan, there have been 161 lab-confirmed cases of influenza, as of December 28. Seven people were hospitalized with severe influenza-related illness in the province, and influenza was a factor in three deaths.
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 four weeks post-partum);
*Children from six 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 residents 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 frequently washing their hands, coughing and sneezing into their elbow, regularly cleaning surfaces and staying home when sick, she said.
Hudson also reminds the public that if they are sick, they should not be visiting residents in long-term care facilities within the region.
The SCHR is also encouraging people who are not immunized to wear a mask when they are visiting patients in health care facilities to protect vulnerable residents. Masks are available at the entrances to health care facilities, or can be obtained by speaking with the nursing staff.