One of Canada’s top ten killers is on the loose in Niagara.
Niagara Region Public Health has confirmed the first laboratory cases of the flu for this outbreak season, from October to April.
The flu (influenza virus) affects the respiratory system and can lead to potentially fatal complications like pneumonia.
That’s why Public Health is encouraging all Niagara residents, six months of age and older, to get their flu shot by visiting their family doctor, a pharmacist, or Public Health clinic.
Kathy Bell, manager of infectious disease for Niagara Public Health, said there are two main types of flu virus, type A and type B, both which exhibit the same symptoms, such as cough, fever, runny nose, headaches, body pains and fatigue.
The current outbreaks in Niagara are type A, though both types typically appear during an outbreak season, said Bell.
The virus is spread by coughing, sneezing or coming into contact with surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus.
Bell said getting immunized is the best chance people have to avoid getting the virus and reminds those who might be wary that the flu shot is completely safe.
“It does not give you the flu,” said Bell. “Protect yourself and protect those around you.”
The flu is one of the top 10 killers in Canada, responsible for approximately 3,500 deaths and 12,000 hospital visits each year, said Bell, with the highest susceptible groups being children under 5-years-old and elderly people 65-years-old and up.
Some additional measures you can take to prevent getting the flu or spreading it to other people include: cleaning your hands regularly; coughing into your elbow, sleeve or a tissue; cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces regularly; and staying home if you are ill.
Public Health discourages visiting friends and family in long-term care facilities or hospitals for those ill with the flu or having flu-like symptoms.
She said while these are the first confirmed cases of the outbreak season, there are sporadic cases of the flu in Niagara throughout the year. This time of the year (outbreak season) sees the highest infection rates.
You can locate a participating flu shot clinic near you at, niagararegion.ca/health.
Those who require medical attention for flu should visit an urgent care centre, walk-in clinic or a health care professional.
For more information you can call Niagara Region Public Health Infectious Diseases program at 905-688-8248, ext. 7330 or toll free 1-888-505-6074.?