Flu season is underway and P.E.I.’s chief public health officer anticipates more vaccine doses will be distributed across the province this year than last.
Dr. Heather Morrison said so far, 61,870 doses of the influenza vaccine have been doled out provincewide and said vaccines are still available through pharmacies, public health nursing and physicians’ offices.
As of Jan. 16, there have been no ICU admissions or influenza-related deaths on the Island, and there has been one influenza-related hospitalization, though the person has since been discharged.
To date, there have been 16 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in P.E.I., though Morrison said the actual number is likely higher.
“The lab-confirmed cases are just an indication that there’s greater influenza activity in the community,” she said, adding not everyone seeks medical attention when they have the flu.
Groups in particular that should get the flu shot:
- Pregnant women
- Those with chronic conditions such as heart or lung disease
- People who are 65+ years old,
- Residents of nursing homes and chronic care facilities
- Those who may be in contact with any of these groups, like health-care workers
Nationally, Morrison said influenza activity continues to increase and said the biggest increase of the virus usually happens this time of year.
“From mid-January through March, that’s where we tend to see, on average, our biggest number of cases,” said Morrison.
There is still time to get vaccinated, she said.
“It takes up to two weeks for the full effect of the vaccine to occur. We still have enough time in our influenza season that it would be of benefit if someone hasn’t received a vaccine,” she said, adding this year's vaccine protects against both strains A and B of the influenza virus.
“We know it does reduce your chance of hospitalization and your chance of serious outcome and complications.”
At the end of last year’s flu season, the province administered just over 63,000 doses of the vaccine, and Morrison said that number will likely be exceeded this year.
She contributed the uptake in part to the fact that flu shots have been made easily accessible and are free to Islanders.
Morrison said the public can help prevent the spread of influenza by coughing into their sleeves, staying at home when they are sick and getting vaccinated.
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