Get flu shot to ward off expected March wave

Feb. 10 deadline | Influenza has peaked in Saskatchewan but some expect another outbreak next month

Saskatchewan residents have until Feb. 10 to protect themselves from an expected second wave of H1N1.


Until that date, health regions will offer drop-in and by appointment clinics to vaccinate as many people as possible.


Dr. Denise Werker, the province’s deputy chief medical health officer, said Jan. 31 that public health officials have a limited opportunity to vaccinate people.


“The reason that Feb. 10 is a turning point is that we now have information that, although influenza is circulating throughout the province and still has not yet peaked in the north, we know that this wave is on the way down and the next wave may occur in March,” she said. “If we want people to be protected, it takes two weeks for them to get protected.”


The other reason Feb. 10 is important is that the extra doses of the nasal vaccine FluMist the province purchased expire that day.


After Feb. 10, vaccinations will still be available for people who require them, such as children younger than nine who need their second dose.


As of Jan. 31, the province had 1,184 confirmed laboratory cases, 60 people who had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit and 16 deaths.


Three new hospitalizations in the last week included a child younger than five and two adults between 20 and 50. Alberta, as of Jan. 27, had 2,476 confirmed cases, 707 hospitalizations and 17 deaths.


In Manitoba, about 400 confirmed cases, 14 ICU admissions and one associated death had been reported as of Jan. 24.


H1N1 has not yet peaked in eastern provinces. It has now begun circulating in Europe and Werker said anyone travelling in the next couple of months should consider a flu shot.


Saskatchewan typically spends $1.6 million on influenza vaccine each year and usually vaccinates about 25 percent of the population.


The extra doses purchased as a result of the high number of H1N1 cases have cost $1.4 million, Werker said. FluMist is double the cost of injectable vaccine, she said.


She added that vaccination rates in children have doubled since Dec. 31 as a result of the extraordinary efforts to protect them. That is critical be-cause influenza is affecting children younger than five at three times the rate it is affecting adults.