Influenza cases are quickly rising in Saskatchewan with the majority of the increase being seen in children and young adults.
According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), 61 per cent of influenza cases in the province were residents under the age of 19.
Based on the 2022 flu season in the southern hemisphere, North America may see a ‘significant’ influenza season throughout this fall and winter, the SHA outlined in a news release.
The province’s advice at this time is simple. “Get vaccinated”.
“With an increase of respiratory illnesses this fall, including influenza, all residents should get up-to-date with available vaccinations,” provincial Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said in the release.
“In Saskatchewan, we are fortunate to have safe and effective vaccines for influenza and COVID-19. However, COVID-19 is not the flu and COVID-19 vaccines will not protect you from influenza. The best way to protect yourself and your family against influenza is to get the annual flu shot.”
As of November 10, 185,531 doses of influenza vaccine have been administered in Saskatchewan, representing approximately 15 per cent of the population, the SHA said.
All residents in Saskatchewan six months and older are currently eligible to receive flu shots at participating pharmacies, SHA clinics and some physician and nurse practitioner offices.
All flu shots are free of charge.
Residents who are 65 years of age and older can receive the Fluzone High-Dose influenza vaccine this year.
The SHA recommends that if a vaccination location reports they are out of the high-dose vaccine, to check other locations due to high demand.
PRESSURES ON ACUTE CARE
Dr. Shahab spoke to media in Regina on Tuesday. He said that while pressure on acute care services due to COVID-19 has leveled off, an increase of other respiratory illnesses such as the flu are taking up the slack.
”A number of respiratory illnesses are currently putting pressure on Saskatchewan’s acute care system,” Shahab said.
“The best way to protect yourself against influenza is to be immunized layered with common sense measures.”
These measures include staying home while sick, washing your hands frequently, and choosing to wear a mask when you feel it’s appropriate.
“Every little bit helps, but the important message for today is if you haven’t gotten around to get your flu shot, go get it in the next week or two.”
Dr. Shahab explained that the increase of respiratory illnesses following COVID-19 was expected.
“Generally people have about four to six coughs and colds a year, which many of us had no coughs and colds for two years and then many of us had COVID,” he said. “Now, all of us should expect two to four coughs and colds a year.”
Concerning mask wearing, Shahab said it’s up to residents to make those judgment calls.
“I think we need to make sure that people feel comfortable with wearing a mask or not wearing a mask, based on their own risk assessment,” he said.
“Ultimately it’s your personal choice to wear a mask.”