Provincial health officials are reminding Albertans that influenza vaccination should still be a priority as the Christmas season approaches.
“You may be healthy now, but keep in mind – good health isn’t contagious. Influenza is. To protect your health, you need to get immunized,” said Dr. Gerry Predy, AHS senior medical officer of health.
As of Dec. 5th, there have been 66 individual cases of influenza confirmed in Alberta, including 19 hospitalized cases.
Officials said the spread of the illness is seeming to be arriving later this year, but that doesn’t mean it will be less severe when compared to past flu seasons. So far, nearly a million doses of the vaccine have been administered.
“I’m happy many Albertans have already chosen to protect themselves against influenza before our province gets hit with an outbreak,” said Dr. Martin Lavoie, acting chief medical officer of health with the province. But he said he’s concerned there remains a sizable number that haven’t been as yet vaccinated.
“We haven’t had tonnes of influenza activity so far this year – but it’s just a matter of time before it hits Alberta,” he said, adding it’s a virus that must be taken seriously. “Each season is different, and the (virus) comes at different times.
“We know the number of Albertans getting sick with influenza will go up very soon,” he said. “So at this time of year, when everybody is planning parties and vacations, nobody wants to get sick,” he said, adding those receiving immunizations now stand a better chance of being protected over the holiday season. “It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to build to its full immunity within your system.”
Vaccine continues to be offered to all Albertans (six months of age and older), free of charge.
For more information, including local clinic schedules, Albertans can visit www.ahs.ca/influenza or call Health Link at 811. Influenza immunization is also available through pharmacists and physician offices around the province.
In addition to getting immunized, there are also a number of steps Albertans can take to help prevent the spread of germs and illness this holiday season, said Predy. Proper rest and good nutrition are also essential to helping maintain good health.
“You can also prevent the spread of infection by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. If you don’t have a tissue, always cough or sneeze into your arm, not into your hands,” added Predy. “Also wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water after coughing, sneezing, using tissues or the washroom, and before eating or preparing foods.”
Using an alcohol-based hand rub or sanitizer can also be helpful if hands are not visibly soiled, and make a point of keeping hands and fingers away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
“If you’re sick, stay home from work, school, daycare, or any social function. Please also do not visit family, friends or loved ones in hospitals, care facilities or seniors lodges until you’ve fully recovered.”