30x185 spacer

Flu season is nothing to s’cough at

Thursday, 16 November 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Flu season is nothing to s’cough at
Flu season is nothing to s’cough at

By Caitlin Clow

There is the common cold and then there is influenza — and influenza is not to be taken lightly, says Alberta Health Services.

“Influenza is a very common illness and it’s very likely people will get it,” says Dr. Lena Derie-Gillespie, medical officer of health for AHS South Zone. “It can be very serious.”

Influenza can result in time off from work and school, or hospitalization. In some cases it can be fatal.

Last year seven people from the South Zone died due to influenza. Four lives have already been claimed this year, one of which was from the South Zone.

But, there is a vaccine offered to patients over the age of six months that can help protect during flu season.

Last year, 90,273 residents in southern Alberta were administered the shot, according to AHS.

So far this season, more than 51,000 southern Albertans have visited their local physician, AHS clinic or pharmacist to receive their shot.

Despite the increasing number of vaccinated individuals, 17 confirmed cases of influenza were recorded as of Nov. 9 in Alberta’s South Zone.

Dr. Derie-Gillespie says AHS is aiming to immunize about 35 per cent of the province this year.

“There are certainly people who don’t get shots,” she says.

AHS looks to educate and provide accurate answers to any questions regarding the immunization while providing convenient times and places for Albertans to have the shot administered, she says.

Dr. Derie-Gillespie says that if you have any questions regarding specific symptoms it’s best to call Alberta Health Link at 811 to speak to a medical professional.

“Everyone is susceptible,” she says. “But some people are more likely to have negative effects.”

The most likely to experience negative effects from influenza are pregnant women, the very young and the very old, and those who manage chronic illness.  

There are other means to protect yourself, Dr. Derie-Gillespie says.

“We always encourage people — and what a big difference  — to have good hand hygiene,” she says. “Washing your hands with soap and water and approved alcohol sanitizers.”

She also recommends cleaning highly handled surfaces such as countertops and phones.

“Influenza can live on surfaces and we can pick it up,” she says. “It’s easy to spread. Influenza does everything it can to try to spread.”

Good respiratory hygiene is also recommended. Don’t cough into your hands. Cough into a tissue or into the elbow of your shirt, and be sure to wash your hands afterwards.

If you find yourself with a case of the flu, stay home.

“Don’t go to work or school when you’re unwell,” Dr. Derie-Gillespie says. “We all like to be a hero, but don’t go. Don’t go and expose more people.”

Preventive measures — such as eating well, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep — are the best tools to fight against influenza, she says.

A clinic is set to open Friday in Pincher Creek for those who have yet to get the needle, between 1 and 4 p.m. in the town hall gymnasium. Another is scheduled for Dec. 19 between 3 and 6 p.m.

Crowsnest Pass residents can pop into the Community Health Unit on Dec. 8 between 1 and 3 p.m. to receive their immunization.

“We want to protect everybody,” says Dr. Derie-Gillespie.

Shot recipients should have their Alberta Health card with them and wear a short-sleeved shirt.