Huron Perth Public HealthHuron Perth Public Health

HPPH Medical Officer of Health discusses flu season and how to prevent sickness this year

Huron Perth Public Health recently detected their first case of local influenza.

Following that, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Miriam Klassen held a media briefing to inform everyone of circulating respiratory illnesses, and how best to protect yourself and others during flu season. Dr. Klassen said typically, the winter and holiday seasons coincide with influenza circulation.

"Every time the flu season arrived, we would see that the healthcare system would start to experience strain, especially over the holidays. In addition, COVID-19 continues to circulate at a very, I'll call it a very significant rate. If you look at the data that the province shares, you'll see that when we came down from this last wave, we didn't get as low (case counts) as we have after some previous waves, we plateaued sooner and we might be starting to see a gradual incline, in fact we are across the province," said Klassen.

Even though many are vaccinated against COVID, Dr. Klassen said the circulation of the disease continues to be an issue.

"Severity has been somewhat decoupled from cases, so in other words, with the same number of cases we're seeing less severe cases for a number of reasons. We need to watch this carefully because cases are not going down, in fact, they're starting to go up again," Klassen explained. "We've had over 8,800 confirmed cases here since the pandemic started, but of course, that's very much an undercount because our testing strategy is now so limited. We've had over 1,500 confirmed cases in healthcare workers since March, 2020, and there have been 133 deaths in Huron and Perth."

Dr. Klassen warned with circulation of COVID still strong and now the flu season upon us, outbreaks are occurring still in many settings.

"We continue to have a lot of outbreaks. The last time we updated our dashboard, it was three such outbreaks in long-term care, three in retirement homes and two in congregate living settings, and those numbers may change a bit but what we're finding is that we might clear one or two outbreaks but then one or two more are added," noted Klassen. "That is because in those closed settings of vulnerable people, all viruses can spread more easily, so they're at the highest risk. So that reflects that there's a fair amount of COVID circulating in the communities if there are that many outbreaks happening."

Despite all this, Dr. Klassen maintained there are measures we can all take to prevent the spread of many types of respiratory illnesses this winter and holiday season, including COVID-19 and influenza. She said to stay home when sick. Wear a mask for 10 days after symptoms. Wear a mask in indoor settings. Don’t visit immunocompromised individuals or settings while sick for 10 days, and stay up to date on vaccinations. Flu shots are now available in many healthcare settings including pharmacies.

As of November 1st, flu shots will be available to everyone aged 6 months and older through: -Primary Care Provider’s office (family doctor or nurse practitioner): for those ages 6 months and older. Contact your primary care provider’s office for information on how to get the vaccine. -Pharmacies: for those ages 2 and older. Contact your local pharmacy for more information. -Huron Perth Public Health clinics: for families with children 6 months to less than 2 years of age who do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

The Health Unit is offering two clinics in November: Monday, November 14, 2021, 3-6 p.m. | HPPH Clinton site | 77722B London Road, Clinton Monday, November 21, 2021, 3-6 p.m. | HPPH Stratford West Gore site | 653 West Gore Street, Stratford

An appointment is needed. To book an appointment, please call 1-888-221-2133 ext 3558. Please note that HPPH will not be offering community flu shot clinics for the general public, nor will the flu shot be available at HPPH COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

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