H1N1 resurgence causing spike in flu shot requests

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Two cases confirmed in Nova Scotia

The northern region's chief medical officer is urging people to get a flu shot amid concerns about the return of H1N1.

Public health nurse Samantha McLellan gives Giles Beland a flu vaccination during last year's immunization campaign. Public health officials are urging Nova Scotians to get a flu shot with the arrival of the flu season.

TRURO – A resurgence of the H1N1 virus in Nova Scotia is worth noting, but should not cause a panic, says the chief medical officer for the northern region.

Dr. Ryan Sommers said the H1N1 virus has returned several times since the major outbreak several years, but admitted talk of its return this year is causing more people to think of getting a flu shot.

“It’s definitely raising eyebrows and that’s understanding considering all the hype we had before, but we won’t see the same type of results as last time,” Sommers said. “We actually have the H1N1influena strain the past few years. People are getting vaccinated when they get the regular flu shot.”

There are at least two confirmed cases of H1N1 in Nova Scotia. Ten people have died and many more are in hospital in Alberta and health-care officials are expressing concern the outbreak could move east as winter continues.

Sommers said there have been nine confirmed cases of the flu in Nova Scotia along with others who have shown up at doctor’s offices and emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms.

The best thing people can do to avoid H1N1 or the flu is to get a flu shot, Sommers said, while practicing better hygiene – such as sneezing into a sleeve, washing your hands and staying home when sick – are also important.

“We know the flu is here. We haven’t had the same severity as out west, but what we normally see is it starting out west and then working it’s way here,” he said. “Alberta has been hit hard and Ontario has seen some cases. Eventually we’ll be hit here.”

Sommers said the flu shot is a safe and effective way to prevent the flu.

While the elderly and those with chronic conditions are more suspectible to the flu, Sommers said children under age 5 and young, normally health adults are suspectible to H1N1.

“It looks like H1N1 is going to be the dominant strain this year so we’re urging people who haven’t been vaccinated to get vaccinated,” he said.

Sommers said between 30 and 40 per cent of the population gets a flu shot annually. During the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, that number increased to more than 50 per cent.

Getting a flu shot is much easier this year, he said. Along with public clinics, he said, a flu shot can also be obtained at doctors’ offices and pharmacists.

“There’s much greater access now. Each year, public health has offered free clinics, but this year turnout has been less. The reason for that is pharmacists are offering flu shots. It’s much more convenient in that people can go when they have time,” he said. “That’s made a big difference and we’re encouraging that because that will allow us to offering general clinics to ones that are more focused on certain groups.”

This is the first year pharmacists have been able to provide flu vaccinations in Nova Scotia. Sean Cheverie, who owns Pharmasave stores in Amherst and Parrsboro, said the flu shot is in high demand.

“It was pretty steady when the flu season started and then it got quieter. The last few days have been very busy with a lot of demand for the service,” Cheverie said. “There is some panic out there with the talk of H1N1.”

Cheverie said the best way to get a vaccination is to call ahead, although arrangements can be made for those who show up asking for a flu shot.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Pharmasave

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Alberta, Ontario Amherst Parrsboro

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