Fear the flu? It’s not too late to get a shot.
It’s far into flu season, but that’s no reason for procrastination when it comes to vaccination.
“We still encourage people to get their shot throughout the season,” advises Sandra Allison, Prairie Mountain Health’s medical officer of health.
Allison said that Manitoba’s influenza season has proven normal so far, although other provinces — most notably Alberta — have been harder hit.
“We’re watching that closely,” Allison said. “In Westman proper, and in Prairie Mountain Health, our incidents of respiratory illness is not reaching any sort of level that is raising alarm.”
In Alberta, as of last week, there were nearly 1,000 confirmed flu cases and 270 people hospitalized.
On Wednesday, health officials announced that an Alberta resident had died from the H5N1 bird flu. It’s North America’s first H5N1 case.
However, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the case is considered isolated and is not part of the seasonal flu that circulates in Canada every year.
H1N1 is the predominant strain of flu this year. That strain formed a pandemic in 2009, and it has lingered since. Since 2009, protection against H1N1 has been included in the seasonal flu vaccine.
Allision noted that, so far this year, there seems to be no increase in flu illnesses in the province, and there are no lab-confirmed cases of influenza in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
That doesn’t mean that Manitobans aren’t falling ill from the flu — not every sickly patient is tested by doctors, she said.
Provincially, the latest figures show there have been 39 lab-confirmed cases of influenza A, and six confirmed cases of influenza B.
Of those, eight have been hospitalized and one was admitted to intensive care. No one has died.
With the number of cases increasing, Allison predicted that Prairie Mountain’s clean bill of health when it comes to the flu will likely change by the time the province issues its next flu update on Monday.
That said, Allison said this is an average flu season for Manitoba.
Allison stressed that it’s not too late to get a flu shot, which is available from such sources as family doctors and public health offices.
Getting the shot and hand-washing are two of the leading preventative measures, Allison said.
Those who fall ill should stay home from work or school and ensure they get plenty of rest, she said.
Allison said people are more prone to get ill in winter because they spend so much time indoors. They have less access to fresh air and there’s more potential contact with infected surfaces.
The talk of flu comes as some form of illness seems to be making the rounds in Brandon and other parts of southern Manitoba.
Sufferers experience such symptoms as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, aches and diarrhea.
But Gastroenteritis (stomach flu), which has many of the same symptoms, is also common in winter.
The onset of such illnesses is abrupt and major symptoms typically last less than 48 hours, although fatigue may linger for a week.
Again, hand-washing is important to prevention. And, the decontamination of work surfaces with such measures as disinfectant wipes.
As with the flu, staying home is also advised.
“We generally ask people to stay home until they’re feeling better,” Allison said.