Canada's Condominium Magazine

Influenza Update for the Greater Toronto Area

 

It is never fun being sick, and the flu is the worst. No matter how many times we have been poked and prodded in the past, we are forced to do it again year after year, lest we suffer through a winter of misery. Each year, a new strain develops, seemingly worse than the one before. As the flu is particularly contagious, it is important to protect yourself and your loved ones. Young children, senior citizens, and those with already compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable.

This year’s flu is especially stubborn, as the dominant H3N2 strain affecting Canadians appears to be immune to vaccines, which have thus far only been successful in preventing 10 to 20 per cent of infections. “That means people who were vaccinated should not consider themselves invincible for this season,” said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, lead researcher and infectious diseases expert at the BC Centre for Disease Control.

 

However, that does not mean that everyone should simply forego the annual vaccination and see what happens. Even with the odds of effectiveness being so low, it is still important to receive the shot and take preventative measures. After all, even a ten per cent chance is better than zero. Plus, the ten per cent effectiveness rate only refers to one strain. The flu is coming in waves, and the vaccine may guard against other strains that develop.

Ten per cent may not seem like much when thinking about it in terms of the “big picture.” However, for that ten per cent, it could make all the difference in the world. If you are one of the people within that group, then you will be immune to this strain of the flu. That also means that you cannot spread it to others… your parents, your significant other, your children, your friends and family, your co-workers, clients, acquaintances, or even random strangers you encounter. If you are around young children or the elderly on a regular basis, this could mean the difference between life and death.

Twenty-one cases of influenza have been reported the last week of January alone. The total number of reported cases for the season was a staggering 185. Nine flu-related deaths have been reported so far in the Waterloo region this season. The deaths all involved senior citizens. The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get the flu shot.

 

Many wonder if they should bother getting it, since the flu is already here. Pharmacist Erin McClure says yes. “It’s never too late to get the flu shot. The flu season goes until March. There is some effectiveness at decreasing the severity and preventing it.”

No vaccine is perfect, and even if you do everything right, there is no guarantee it will work. However, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you do catch the flu, you know that you did all that you could to prevent it, and at least you can take comfort in knowing that the vaccine will at very least reduce the risk of serious complications. Look out for the following symptoms if you suspect you have been exposed to the flu:

  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Cough and sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea (especially prevalent in children)

If you do become ill, it is important that you refrain from too much physical activity. You do not want to overexert yourself and make things worse. Stay home. Do not go into work or send sick children to school or other activities. Bed rest and fluids are vital when sick, especially where the flu is concerned. Treat fevers and pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and void alcohol and tobacco. Have a friend or family member retrieve assignments, bring you food and medications, etc. so that you can remain in bed until you have regained your health.

 

Although most instances of the flu simply come and go, many cases have resulted in severe complications and even loss of life. Such is the case of a young boy by the name of Nico Mallozzi. The typically active 10-year-old was rushed to the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo after falling ill while on a school trip to upstate New York.

Mallozzi was later discharged. On the way home, however, he took a turn for the worse and ended up being rushed to another hospital in New York, where it was discovered that he had developed complications from the flu. These complications led to the pneumonia and sepsis, which resulted in his death.

The following is a more extensive list of people who are most at risk of developing severe complications resulting from influenza:

  • Adults aged 65 and older
  • People who live in long-term care facilities
  • Children under the age of five
  • Pregnant women
  • Indigenous people
  • People with compromised immune systems and other health conditions, such as:
    • Cancer
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Lung disease
    • Obesity

 

If you develop the flu, be cautious and take proper care of yourself so that you can recover as quickly as possible. It is also imperative that you take note of any possible complications and seek medical attention if necessary, especially if you notice the following:

  • Symptoms which do not improve after seven days
  • A body temperature exceeding 40 degrees Celsius
  • Shortness of breath
  • Mental confusion
  • Severe chest pain

 

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