Four dead as flu season hits Saskatchewan early

Flu season is beginning to enter its peak in Saskatchewan, as the annual virus took hold three weeks earlier than it normally does.

Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said that infection rates show the disease will likely be most intense around the Christmas holidays. Because of this, he advised staying home if you are feeling ill.

“If you’re visiting family and friends in hospital or long-term care. It’s really important not to visit if you’re sick because that’s how we introduce influenza to people who are more vulnerable to the flu,” Shahab said.

With the early start to the flu season, the province has already recorded six outbreaks in long-term care facilities as of Dec. 8. Shahab said the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are most likely to develop serious complications due to the virus.

Another sign of the early flu season is the disease has already turned deadly in the province. Four people have died from the flu according to the latest provincial flu report. In the past three years, there have not been any fatalities at this point.

Eleven people have been admitted to the intensive care units as a result of the flu so far.

With the virus expected to peak during the holidays, Shahab advised that people who take medication for other conditions plan ahead to ensure they have access to their prescriptions while travelling and pharmacies being open varying hours over the holidays.

The dominant “A” strain of the flu this year is H1N1, a disease children under five-year-old are more vulnerable to contracting.

Several daycares in Saskatoon said that they have seen a notable number of sick children over the past month, on one its third round of dealing with the virus.

In Regina, issues with the flu do not appear to be as common yet in daycares.

“We all have to teach ourselves and our children healthy habits, washing your hands before eating and drinking, coughing into your sleeve or into a tissue paper. Those kind of things go a long way to preventing large outbreaks,” Shahab said.

According to the province, 277,000 doses of the flu vaccine have been administered, as of Dec. 17, which is a three per cent increase over last year. Shahab said people can still get the flu shot, which is expected to be effective for the “B” strain that usually comes in February or March.

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