’Flu season hits early
Reports of influenza are part of every winter but ’flu season has hit the Rainy River and Kenora districts early this year.
Donna Stanley, manager of infectious diseases for the Northwestern Health Unit, said Monday that ’flu has been confirmed across the entire region the health unit covers, which is everything west of Upsala.
While several people in the Thunder Bay area have died due to influenza-related complications, Stanley said she’s not aware of any such cases here.
But Stanley did note the confirmed cases of the ’flu are earlier than normal (in some years, it hasn’t been widely confirmed until as late as March).
Meanwhile, gastrointestinal viruses (or “stomach ’flu”) were making the rounds in December, but have decreased since the respiratory viruses have come on the scene.
If you think you have the ’flu, going to the ER isn’t always necessary.
Stanley said the public is encouraged to use Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000), as well as remember that if they have the influenza virus, doctors really can’t give you anything to cure it.
“We certainly never want to see people not go and seek medical care if they’re having trouble breathing or if they’re dehydrated—if they’re seriously ill,” she stressed.
“But [for] generally well people who are just feeling really crummy, going and waiting in the ER for hours to be told, ‘You have a virus. There is nothing I can do for you,’ isn’t helpful.
“And it also clogs up the emergency room for those people who are seriously ill,” she reasoned.
“We just want to encourage people to use the system really responsibly,” added Stanley, noting that if you do have the ’flu, stay home, get rest, and drink plenty of liquids.
Stanley said the vaccine administered to the public this fall and winter is “a pretty good match” to the strain of ’flu virus making the rounds, but there’s no guarantee people won’t get sick.
“The ’flu shot, we know it’s not 100 percent in every person,” she said, likening the public to a school of fish and the ’flu being a shark.
“Fish travel in schools because the predators can’t pick out which one to get,” she explained.
“Every one of them is vulnerable but because they’re travelling that way, they’re less vulnerable.
“When more and more people get [a shot], the ’flu disease itself has a harder time taking hold,” Stanley added. “You’re likely to get less sick than you would have—some people shouldn’t get sick at all.
“But overall, if most people had protection against the ’flu, it would be unlikely that the other people would get it.
“There isn’t enough person-to-person transmission going on,” she said.
It’s still not too late to get a ’flu shot.
Stanley said if it someone definitely has had influenza, it might not do much good. But if they were sick with another type of illness, there’s no reason not to get a shot.
She added it’s important to think not only of your own health, but those around you who may catch the ’flu.
“We have been seeing a trend in our area to see babies sick,” she noted. “That’s always something to remember, that you can also protect others by getting your ’flu shot.
“Young babies are going to be protected more if the people in their house have had their ’flu shot,” Stanley stressed.
’Flu shots will continue to be available until spring by appointment at all Northwestern Health Unit offices.
Residents can phone or visit their local offices directly, or call 1-866-468-2240 to be connected to any of their offices and make an appointment.