The provincial Department of Health and Community Services says, as of today, there have been 345 confirmed cases of influenza this flu season in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Dr. Faith Stratton, the province's chief medical officer of health, is urging people to take personal action to prevent contracting and spreading the flu.
“The most important preventive measures that everyone can take to reduce the spread of the influenza virus is to clean, cover and contain – clean your hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitizer; use a tissue or your arm to cover coughs and sneezes; and, contain your illness by staying home and away from other people,” said Stratton. “The typical flu season in Newfoundland and Labrador runs from January to June. However this year we saw cases spread earlier than in previous years. This, in conjunction with the holiday season, has led to an increase in the number of cases being reported.
The Department of Health says following the personal hygiene routine of clean, cover and contain is the simplest and easiest way to help prevent catching and spreading the flu virus.
Other general rules to follow include:
• Avoid touching your face with your hands especially after coming into contact with public surfaces such as door handles, stair rails, debit machines etc.;
• If you are sick, stay home, but if you must go out be respectful of others and try and avoid crowded areas, or seat yourself away from others to avoid spreading your infection;
• Clean frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill;
• Eat nutritious meals, exercise and get lots of rest. Your body needs good nutrition and plenty of rest to help prevent infections;
• Respect the visitor restrictions put in place by the regional health authorities. These are important measures to prevent the spread of infection;
• Get the flu shot to help reduce the risk of catching influenza.
The department says, although the flu season has already begun, it's not too late to get the influenza vaccine. The vaccine is provided at no cost through the public health program for individuals at high risk for complications from influenza, including:
• Adults and children with chronic conditions requiring regular medical or hospital care such as respiratory disorders, cardiac disease, renal disease, metabolic disorders, mobility impairment and immunosuppression;
• People in residential care, including residents and staff;
• People age 60 and over;
• Children, six months to 59 months;
• Pregnant women, particularly those in their third trimester;
• Aboriginal people;
• Health-care workers including those in the community or chronic-care facilities;
• Household contacts of people at high risk of influenza complications;
• Essential service workers (such as police, ambulance, firefighters);
• Live poultry and swine industry workers.
For further information on the seasonal influenza vaccination, residents should contact the regional health authority in their area.
“The influenza virus tends to come in waves every three to four years where we will see flu activity spike in one year and then subside in the following years,” said Stratton. “As we are now seeing, this appears to be the peak year which is following two relatively mild years of influenza. This has been the trend across the country.”
More information on provincially reported surveillance and disease reports can be found online at www.health.gov.nl.ca/health/publichealth/cdc/informationandsurveillance.html.