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Feature Article -February 1, 2007

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Judge_implacableFebruary 1, 2007

Local confirmed influenza cases make flu shot more vital -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Kingston-With significant influenza activity in the KFL&A area, the area's Medical Officer of Health is urging residents to get their influenza immunization-the flu shot-at their earliest convenience. As of January 26, 2007, there were 12 confirmed cases of Influenza A in the KFL&A area, including one institutional outbreak of 7 cases. The five other cases of Influenza A are considered sporadic cases. Since most people with influenza are not tested, these cases represent dozens or even hundreds of cases of Influenza is in the community. While the schedule for local community clinics in shopping malls, community centres, and libraries concluded in December, residents can still get the free flu shot from their family doctors or at KFL&A Public Health's Immunization Clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:45 to 11:45 a.m. at 221 Portsmouth Ave., Kingston. "While we can never predict what kind of influenza season it will be, it is always important to receive this protection each year, using the most recent vaccine to protect against the current circulating viruses," said Dr. Ian Gemmill, Medical Officer of Health with KFL&A Public Health. "Getting a free influenza shot is important for a number of reasons, including lowering one's own chances of getting sick from influenza, but perhaps more importantly, not to pass it on to family and friends, especially those at high risk of complications, hospitalization, and death." Data from KFL&A Public Health's Syndromic Surveillance Program-a web-based early warning system that monitors data from emergency department visits to create a real-time, community-based health barometer by using spatial representation to pinpoint hot spots of common emergency department complaints such as gastrointestinal outbreaks, influenza like illness or asthma exacerbations-has shown that influenza activity is moving from west to east. Hastings Prince Edward Counties Health Unit HPECHU reported its first influenza cases in mid-December and has seen an increase in emergency department visits for febrile respiratory and influenza-like-illness over the past month, consistent with reports of outbreaks in long-term care homes. While some of this increase is also likely owing to other circulating viruses, it was confirmed that influenza was in the area mid-December. The confirmation of 5 influenza cases in KFL&A residents suggests that the heightened activity to the west is headed this way. This west to east pattern is consistent with the Public Health Agency of Canada's FluWatch reports of Influenza Activity where influenza typically begins in the Western Provinces and moves east towards Ontario. While many myths exist about immunization, the flu shot is the safest way to protect yourself and your family and friends from the influenza virus. "Influenza vaccine is the safest, long lasting, and most effective way to protect one's self against influenza. It does not contain any live virus," said Dr. Gemmill. "Most people have no reaction at all to their vaccine, while some first time recipients report getting a slight fever, soreness at the site of injection, and muscle aches that last only a couple days."

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