Influenza clinics winding down as year draws to close

  • Dec. 21, 2011 3:55 p.m.

Those hoping for a flu shot before Christmas have a few more opportunities this week.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has set up more influenza immunization clinics as the year comes to a close. AHS will continue to offer influenza immunization through community health centres and public health offices to the end of March 2012, but residents are encouraged to take advantage of the remaining dedicated clinic days and get immunized as soon as possible.

“Influenza has arrived and is circulating in Alberta. To protect yourself and reduce further spread of influenza in our community, it’s important to be immunized as soon as possible,” says Dr. Digby Horne, medical officer of health, Central Zone. “Bottom line: there’s no benefit to waiting to be immunized.”

A clinic is planned for Dec. 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Johnstone Crossing Community Health Centre. For more information, call 403-356-6333. Others are planned for the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre –Dec. 22 (12:30 to 7:30 p.m.) and Dec. 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

All Albertans, six months of age and older, are eligible to receive immunization, free of charge.

Officials are also remind folks of the importance of handwashing in keeping the illness at bay. Alcohol-based hand rub or sanitizers can also be helpful in warding off some – but not all – germs. It’s also important to stay home if you are sick. Those with symptoms including fever, cough, diarrhea and/or vomiting should stay home from work, school, daycare or any social function.

A recent increase in the number of cases of Norovirus across the Central Zone has also prompted Alberta Health Services to remind area residents of precautions to reduce the spread of illness. Norovirus is a viral infection that occurs throughout the year, most commonly in the winter. Symptoms almost always include vomiting and/or diarrhea and may include muscle aches and low-grade fever. Although symptoms usually last only 48 to 72 hours, and in most cases require no special treatment.

According to Alberta Health Services, seasonal influenza (commonly known as the ‘flu’) is a serious infection of the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs) caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person by respiratory droplets through the air when a person coughs or sneezes.

It is also spread through contact with surfaces contaminated by the influenza virus (toys, eating utensils and unwashed hands). Seasonal influenza affects people across the world, can affect anybody in any age group and occurs in Canada anytime during the late fall/winter months (November to April).

Seasonal influenza infection most commonly causes a sudden onset of high fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint aches and pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and runny nose.

For more information, go online at www.albertahealthservices.ca or call Health Link Alberta toll-free at 1-866-408-LINK (5465).

-Weber

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