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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Inviting Influenza? Holiday Health Tips!

When celebrating with family and friends this holiday season, be sure you don’t invite influenza to the gathering.
There has been a high level of flu activity in the province already this season, and Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, Medical Officer of Health for the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is urging residents to take precautions to be sure they don’t let the flu ruin their holiday season.

'This is the time of year when we come together with family and friends to celebrate the holiday,'she says. 'It would be a shame to miss out on the festivities because of the flu, or worse, to pass the illness on to others.'

Huge Increased Influenza Statistics

The province recently issued a notice that there are higher than usual numbers of confirmed influenza cases in the province. For the period September 1 to December 10, there have been 729 lab-confirmed cases of influenza and 49 outbreaks in long-term care homes. During the same time last year, there were 15 confirmed influenza cases and no outbreaks. In the area served by the HKPR District Health Unit, there have been 26 lab confirmed influenza cases and five influenza outbreaks since mid-November.

Influenza Increases Hospitalizations

People of any age can get the flu, and illness usually lasts five to 10 days, sometimes longer in older adults and in people with chronic diseases. Most people who get the flu are ill for only a few days. However, some people can become very ill, possibly developing complications and requiring hospitalization. Seasonal influenza annually results in up to 1,000 hospitalizations and up to 1,600 deaths each year in Ontario.

How Influenza Spreads

The influenza virus spreads mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. People can become infected by touching objects or surfaces with flu viruses on them and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose. Flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and extreme weakness and fatigue.

Influenza Prevention Tips

The best way to prevent becoming ill with the flu is to get the flu shot every year, Dr. Noseworthy says. While the Health Unit’s community clinics are now over, the flu shot may still be available through health care providers or community pharmacies. As well, people can call the Health Unit to book an appointment for vaccination early in the new year. This year’s vaccine is a good match for the strain of flu currently circulating in the province. The flu shot strengthens your immune system to build up antibodies against the virus but it can take up to two weeks for antibodies to build up after you get the flu shot.

As well, people can stop the spread of flu by

  • washing their hands thoroughly and often,

  • sneezing and coughing into their sleeves and

  • staying home from work and holiday parties if they are sick.

“Don’t spread the flu this holiday season,” Dr. Noseworthy says. “That is one gift your family and friends definitely do not want to receive.”

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