Syrian refugees hit by 1st flu season in Canada
Health officials estimates half the adult Syrian refugees, most of the children have caught colds or the flu
Many Syrian refugees who came to Edmonton as part of Canada's resettlement plans have been hit hard by the flu during their first winter in their new home country.
"They're just not used to the climate here, so they catch the cold, they catch the flu. They're not used to the strains of [the] virus," said agency spokesman Michael Di Massa.
"They're in a short-term residence, which is probably not helping the situation," he said. "It's like kids in school — if you have one kid in the classroom get sick, the other kids might get sick."
Edmonton's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Christopher Sikora, said the province provides regular checkups and flu shots for all refugees, but with so many arriving in a short time, it's hard to keep up.
"We have a group of individuals arriving in Canada who have underlying chronic disease, who come from an environment where things weren't very good, and travelling through influenza (and) gastrointestinal virus season," he said.
While refugees are screened medically before boarding a plane to Canada, no medical condition excludes them if it does not pose a health risk to Canadians.
Alberta Health Services said it isn't surprised, as many of the refugees haven't seen a doctor in a long while and may be dealing with a number of health issues.
Because the refugees don't have family doctors, they end up in walk-in clinics and emergency rooms, AHS said.
However, doctors and nurses are stepping up, even making house calls, Sikora said.
"Family physicians all across Edmonton are very willing and open to having our Syrian families linked up with them," he said.