Are you working age? Get a flu shot warns Medical Health Officer
By Suzy Hamilton, The Nelson Daily
You wouldn’t drive in the winter without snow tires and you shouldn’t neglect a flu shot if you want to be safe.
That’s the warning from Dr. Rob Parker, Medical Health Officer with Interior Health.
“Our main concern is that people are getting sick unnecessarily,” said Parker,.
“There is still time to get vaccinated.”
Parker expects the outbreak will peak in two weeks, still giving residents time to get vaccinated at their health units.
The H1N1 strain of influenza A has emerged after a five year lull when the virus became a pandemic in 2009. It has claimed the life of one 50 year old Okanagan woman, six people in Saskatchewan and 10 people in Alberta so far.
This time, the victims are pre-schoolers and working age people from 20 to 64 years old, said Parker.
A probable explanation is that seniors, usually the bug’s target in flu season, have developed an immunity to H1N1 from flu outbreaks in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, said Parker.
“For many decades we didn’t see much exposure,” he said.
With less than 50 percent in the new age group getting vaccinated, the virus is gaining a foothold.
“Most seniors get a flu shot. But (The working age) feel they’re young, they’re not going to pick it up,” said Parker.
“Parents of preschoolers have not fully recognized that we are recommending it for children 18 months to six years old..
“Those are the two groups I’m worried about.”
Lab results confirm 45 people in the Interior Health region with the H1N1 strain. It is easily transmitted in the workplace or daycare by the coughing employee or child.
“By far, the cough is the most common way to transmit it,” said Parker.
“The best thing is to get a flu shot to protect yourself and if you get sick, stay home.”
Parker said he expects the outbreak to put “bed pressure” on the IH hospitals but is confident that the system has the ability to shift people around should more ventilators be needed.
“I’m more concerned with the serious influenza that will hospitalize people,” he said, noting that hospitals already are running at 98-105 percent capacity.
“But we were able to handle 2009 and this is not on that scale.”
A more lethal influenza strain, H5N1, has claimed the life of an Alberta resident who, it is believed, contracted it in China.
“The bad news is that it is so lethal,” Parker said. “It gets into your lungs and causes an over immune response.”
The good news is that there is no evidence that it has human to human transmission.”