Although the wind-up of the influenza season is typically around the end of March, it’s not too late to get the annual flu shot, officials say.
For most, influenza will cause a few days of fever, cough and generally feeling unwell. But for some, this contagious respiratory disease can lead to severe complications requiring hospitalization or even death, officials add.
Several times are set up for flu clinics over the coming weeks in the City, but folks must pre-book their appointments. At the Red Deer Bremner Avenue Community Health Centre, clinics run Feb. 1st from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Feb. 22nd from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
At the Red Deer Johnstone Crossing Community Health Centre, clinics run Jan. 12th from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m.; Jan. 18th from 9 a.m. to noon; Jan. 25th from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Feb. 3rd from 1 to 4 p.m.; Feb. 6th from 9 a.m. to noon and Feb. 15th from 9 a.m. to noon. Again, these times are for pre-booked appointments only.
“It is sometimes hard to compare year to year in terms of how severe a season is, because the timing is different year to year,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Central Zone lead medical officer of health. “Last year, for example, at this time of the year we had seen 135 cases of influenza A, but by the end of the season there were 3,710,” she said of the province as a whole.
“This year, across the province, we’ve seen 1,746 cases of influenza A as of the end of December,” she said. “So it’s always hard to say if this season is better, worse of the same as last season until the season is actually over and we do our full tallies. But influenza certainly has arrived, and as it always is, it’s unfortunately putting people in the hospital and has caused some deaths already. It’s a serious illness.”
As mentioned, officials also say the best time to get vaccinated is from October through to December, but it is never too late. Hinshaw said at this point, there are slightly more people who have been immunized compared to last year. Just over one million Albertans have been immunized this year.
“It’s good to see that we are making gains year over year, and we will continue to advocate and remind people of the importance of protecting themselves and their loved ones.”
According to Alberta Health, influenza spreads rapidly – the virus passes from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
The virus can live on hands and is then passed to surfaces through touching. The virus can live on hard surfaces such as door handles, telephones, light switches, computer keyboards, countertops for up to 48 hours, and on soft surfaces like clothing for eight to 10 hours.
Infection can also happen when people touch any surface contaminated with the virus and then touch their own mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands. People usually develop symptoms of influenza within four days after becoming infected.
“There is a general belief that we need to come to work at all costs, but certainly as with any infection, the best thing to do when you are feeling sick is to not spread it on,” said Hinshaw. “It’s definitely something you can pass pretty easily when you are coughing and sneezing and people are close to you.”
Symptoms include fever that starts suddenly, a dry cough that can last for weeks, headache, an aching body especially in the lower back and legs and feeling very weak and tired. Other symptoms can include chills, loss of appetite, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose.
For more information, contact Health Link at 811 or visit www.health.alberta.ca.