Thursday, 23 November 2017 12:16

Keep lots of weapons in your arsenal this flu season in Alberta

Written by  Jamie Regier
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An H3 strain of Influenza A is the dominant flu bug thus far this season and the season is shaping up to be a fairly active one.


"Every season is different, but we are seeing more cases and outbreaks," said Dr. Lena Derie-Gillespie, Alberta Health Services (AHS) medical officer of health for the south zone.
According to the latest Alberta Influenza data that came out from AHS on Nov. 16, there has been 478 laboratory confirmed cases on Influenza A in the province, 24 of which have been in the south zone. By comparison, there have been 82 laboratory confirmed cases of Influenza B, with just two in the south zone. Of these, 178 Albertans have been admitted to hospital in Alberta, 10 from the south zone. Four Albertans, one of whom was from the south zone, have died.
The numbers, though do not give an accurate representation of how many cases there are because the statistics only reflect the hospital visits.
"With these figures, we are only seeing the hospital numbers. It is only the tip of the iceberg. People may be seeing their doctors or not seeking medical treatment at all. The severity is much larger," said Derie-Gillespie.
Also, not in these statistics is the cost of treating patients who have influenza compared with offering the flu shot, which is free of charge to all Albertans.
"What is not being noted is the dollars spent with the hospital visits, emergency visits, doctor visits that are related to influenza," she said.
To stay flu-free this winter, Derie-Gillespie said the most important thing people can do is get immunized.
"Get your flu shot. It's the best way possible to guard against catching the flu," she said. "People will get their flu shot to protect themselves, but people need to think of the other side too. If you don't get immunized and go to work sick with the flu, how do you know the person next to you doesn't have health issues or maybe has a baby at home. Think beyond yourself. Always consider the other side."
Influenza immunizations are available free of charge to all Albertans, six months and older through AHS clinics, pharmacies, and physicians. Pharmacists cannot immunize children under nine years old, however.
"We want to make it as easy as possible for people and we have some amazing partners in the community," she said.
Besides getting the flu shot, there is a number of other things people can do to ward off influenza.
"Get your flu shot, use proper hand hygiene, cover your cough, and don't go to school or work if you are sick," said Derie-Gillespie.
Wash hands thoroughly and often, using soap and warm water. Make sure you wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, using the washroom, and before eating or preparing food and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or cough or sneeze into your arm, not hands, AHS suggests and to stay home when sick. It is also important to ensure family members and care givers receive the flu shot.
"We know children are at higher risk. They immune systems are different than that of an adult. They can be very easily exposed to influenza," she said.
Further information is available on the AHS website at www.ablertahealthservices.ca/influenza
People can also simply dial 811 for access to Health Link where they can receive health care information  from a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week or go online to www.MyHealth.Alberta.ca
People can also call the toll-free number at 1866-408-5465. Health Link support is available in more than 240 languages.

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