This winter has reintroduced the flu in an impactful way. During COVID-19, preventative measures held flu strains at bay. Now that gatherings are happening in the workplace, in schools, and at public events, the flu has taken hold across the country, in some cases with dire consequences.
Dr. Rotimi Kolawole, Medical Health Officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, explains that the seasonal resurgence of influenza viruses is to be expected, but the previous years of coronavirus measures have resulted in a loss of immunity. Compounding the challenge is the presence of multiple strains.
“The seasonal influenza virus affects everybody, but the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is more common in children below two years, in older people and those who are immunocompromised” said Dr. Kolawole. “Also COVID is not yet behind us, so we are dealing with three respiratory viruses at the same time.”
The resurgence has been putting strain on hospitalization rates throughout Canada. Consequently, medical health officers and the SHA are calling on people to once again take action with some of the preventative measures familiar from the COVID period.
“Wash your hands. If you’re sick, stay home.If you are going to be gathering in a place that is crowded, use a facemask. This is important because these viruses are transmitted by droplets from coughing or sneezing or from surfaces where the viruses are found.”
Dr. Kolawole also encourages continued vigilance when it comes to cleaning those surfaces. However, he says at this stage, vaccination is the critical action.
“The flu shots are now available, and we’ve been encouraging people to get their flu shots. Children are encouraged to get flu shots if they’ve never had any before. Older adults or anyone who lives in long term care homes should get a shot.”
He encourages everyone, particularly those who are immunocompromised or working in health care facilities to get a flu vaccination
At the same time, he notes that those who have received primary or secondary doses of COVID vaccine can get a booster at the same time.
“You don’t have to book separately; the public health nurses can get you in to get both vaccines at the same time. You can talk to your public health nurse or your pharmacy can give you information on indications and possible side effects.”
Dr. Kolawole concludes that overall the flu shot is one of the safest and most effective measures to combat the circulating viruses. The shot has demonstrably reduced hospitalization and mortality rates.
Those wishing to book their shots through SHA facilities can use the online booking system at www.4flu.ca. Additional information on the Seasonal Influenza Immunization Program is available by clicking on the link.