Don’t Get Caught! Get the Shot! A Message from our Medical Health Officers

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Don’t Get Caught! Get the Shot! A Message from our Medical Health Officers


The 2017/18 influenza season has started with sporadic cases reported across the Province, including our Health Region.

Similarly, cases across Canada have appeared with Alberta reporting more extensive localized cases in this early part of the season.

To date the dominant laboratory isolates have been Influenza A H3N2. This type is most often associated with more severe disease resulting in hospital, including ICU, admissions. Mutations also occur often, with the result that the influenza vaccine might be less effective. Reports from Australia, where the influenza season has run its course, indicate that the Influenza A H3N2 was responsible for a more severe season.

Influenza A H3N2 isolates in Canada, including those from Saskatchewan, have been a good match thus far with the strain type contained in the vaccine.

We strongly encourage everyone to get the vaccine as it is our best protective tool we have.

The vaccine can be given in pregnancy and is available and indicated for all persons without contraindication, 6 months and older. Please encourage all patients and their families, but especially those with underlying medical conditions, to get an influenza vaccine annually.

Population and Public Health Services have an active surveillance system in place to track the unfolding influenza picture. Activities include surveillance for influenza like illness reports from schools, the RCMP Depot training facility, certain physician offices, our ICU settings, long term care facilities and the laboratory testing results of samples submitted from across the health care setting. We also closely monitor reports from across Canada, and indeed the rest of the world, as the virus can be but a plane ride away from our Region.

Since the beginning of November, we have had 3 identified hospital admissions for Influenza A H3N2 - two in the ICU setting and one on a medical ward. A number of confirmed laboratory isolates have been seen in our community thus far. Do remember that confirmed laboratory cases are but a tip of the iceberg of what is happening in the community, as most cases are not swabbed for diagnostic purposes.

Our general advice for patients with influenza like illness is to stay home until substantially better, wash hands frequently, apply cough and respiratory etiquette and treat symptomatically as needed. Patients with any more significant illness or underlying medical conditions should seek attention and be carefully assessed. In such cases of higher clinical concern you may consider adding Oseltamivir treatment if the illness onset is less than 48 hours, as efficacy of the antiviral drug after 48 hours of illness is substantially less.

In closing should you have questions or concerns regarding influenza, do contact us at Public Health and we will endeavour to assist where possible.

Remember to get your influenza vaccine for yourself. Your patient care work puts you in a particularly vulnerable spot for exposure to influenza, but at the same time being vaccinated yourself protect the vulnerable people you care for.

More updates later in the season. Get protection to give protection.

Submitted by: Dr. Tania Diener and Dr. Maurice Hennink, Medical Health Officers