Return of the H1N1

Lisa Goudy
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Joann Blazieko, public health nurser and supervisor, gives a vaccine

FHHR’s next flu clinic set for Friday

It’s impossible to prevent all deaths from influenza.

“People will always pass away from influenza and it doesn’t have to be those with medical conditions pre-existing,” said Dr. Mark Vooght, chief medical officer with the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR). “If you haven’t been vaccinated, then the chance of contracting influenza is higher.”

At Monday’s influenza vaccination clinic, the public health office ran out of vaccine and had to close the clinic early. Approximately 270 people received a vaccination on Monday.

The next flu vaccine clinic is scheduled for Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Moose Jaw public health office. Vooght said the region expects a new shipment of vaccine before the clinic.

Vooght said the vaccine shortage is happening all over Saskatchewan. Prince Albert had to cancel a drop-in clinic.

As of Tuesday, six people in Saskatchewan have died from the flu, according to the Canadian Press. As announced by Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical health officer, most of those people had other health conditions. As such, health officials are unsure if the flu caused the deaths. All six cases involved the H1N1 flu.

The three new deaths announced Tuesday were two people over the age of 65 and one person between the ages of 20 and 64.

Two children under five years of age and one middle-aged person died in December as announced on Friday.

“We know that we expect some people to get severely ill from influenza around the province, throughout the country from influenza … especially those with pre-existing medical conditions,” said Vooght.

“It’s always a risk and yes, anyone who has significant medical conditions who contracts influenza would be at risk of complications, even if that just means a long, protracted bronchitis, in certain situation pneumonia and yes, it can be fatal as we know across the country.”

He said the FHHR has had five positive lab results of influenza in the last few weeks, but that is an “undercount.”

“In other words, there’s probably more people out there with influenza. Not everyone is tested,” said Vooght. “We’ve also had a lot of negative results. So that’s a good thing as well.”

The province orders the flu vaccines and the provincial health ministry works with the Public Health Agency of Canada to make sure there are adequate vaccine supplies.

“There will be a redistribution of vaccine around the province. If some regions have a slight surplus, then they’ll send it to other regions, but of course I don’t think there’s going to be much of a surplus in any of the regions,” said Vooght. “There’s been quite a big demand. As of (Monday) afternoon, we had given out more than 10,300 doses and this is throughout our flu season.”

He said as important as the vaccine is, there are also other ways to prevent influenza. Those include frequent hand washing, coughing or sneezing into the sleeve and staying home when sick with influenza.

“We know that with schools going back (Monday), schools are always good incubators of any virus,” said Vooght. “So we’d expect a number of children to come down with influenza and very young children, in other words those less than five years of age, this influenza has hit them very significantly in other provinces and, as you know, in Saskatchewan as well.”

He said it is unknown yet whether there will be any other future flu vaccine clinics in addition to the one set for Friday.

“Ultimately it depends on the availability of vaccine and how much is actually going to be made available to our health region,” said Vooght. “All of the regions are feeling a bit of a pinch at this time. So there’s been a very big upswell of demand throughout the province. It’s a bit of a tight situation right now.”

- with files from the Canadian Press

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Canadian Press, Prince Albert, Public Health Agency of Canada

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw

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