The gift that keeps on giving: flu season peaks over holidays

(Herald file photo)

Jayda Noyes, Daily Herald

Province says 866 confirmed cases of the flu have hit Saskatchewan since Sept. 1, resulting in 11 hospitalizations and four deaths.

The Government of Saskatchewan is reminding the public to give gifts that don’t include the flu this Christmas.

Chief Medical Officer with the Ministry of Health, Dr. Saqib Shahab, spoke with media in Regina on Monday about this year’s influenza statistics.

The bug is beginning to reach its end of December peak, and will then start tapering off in January.

The peak comes three weeks earlier than last year.

Since Sept. 1, the province confirmed 866 cases of the flu, 11 of which were hospitalized and four who died.

At this time in 2017, there were two hospitalizations and zero deaths, yet the season hadn’t reached its peak.

“Unfortunately, every year we do see hospitalization and deaths. They are more likely in people with underlying risk factors—the elderly, people who have a chronic underlying disease and children under the age of five,” explained Shahab.

He said it’s important to wash your hands before and after eating or drinking, cough into your sleeve or a tissue and stay at home when you’re sick to reduce contagiousness.

These healthy habits are especially important to teach children, who are more vulnerable to getting the flu.

But “the best protection,” said Shahab, is getting vaccinated.

They’ve given about 277,000 doses so far, which is a three per cent increase from last year.

“Although most people who want to get the flu vaccine would have received it by now, still, people are thinking about it. It’s very easily available now. Most pharmacies give it, many physician offices give it, public health clinics are still offering it,” he said.

Because many medical offices have reduced hours over the holidays, Shahab added it’s a good idea to schedule appointments and fill prescriptions ahead of time.