Flu shot urged by health officials after H1N1 confirmed

The Department of Health is reminding New Brunswickers to get the flu shot now that influenza has been confirmed in the province.

Department of Health issues vaccine reminder with at least 14 confirmed cases of influenza in N.B.

The Department of Health is reminding New Brunswickers to get the flu shot now that influenza has been confirmed in the province.

Immunization is the best way to reduce the chances of becoming ill with the flu and prevent passing it on to others, said Dr. EilishCleary, the province's chief medical officer of health.

"Increasing the number of New Brunswickers who are immunized against the flu will help keep everyone safe this flu season," she said in a statement.

There have been at least 14 confirmed flu cases in New Brunswick so far this year, although the actual number could be higher since most flu cases are not sent to labs for testing, said Cleary.

All but one of the confirmed cases were the influenza A (H1N1) strain, she said.

The majority of reported flu cases across North America have also been H1N1.

It is not possible to predict which influenza viruses will dominate during the entire 2013-14 influenza season, but the current vaccine will protect against three different strains of the flu, including H1N1, Cleary said.

"We have an opportunity to get ahead of it in New Brunswick, and so we took the opportunity to remind people of the importance of getting the vaccine, particularly for those who are most at risk of severe complications from influenza," she said.

The risk of severe disease and complications from influenza is higher among young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems or other chronic health conditions.

This year's vaccine is available free of charge to vulnerable groups through several health care providers and programs, including family doctors, public health nurses, certified pharmacists and the Victorian Order of Nurses.

"People should just try to avail themselves of the opportunity to get the vaccine before it's too late," said Cleary. "We do have vaccine in stock, so there's plenty there to be utilized."

Influenza viruses changes each year and the flu vaccine is adjusted accordingly to ensure it protects against the strains that are circulating.

Regular hand washing and coughing and sneezing into a sleeve rather than one's hands will also help stop the spread of germs, Cleary said.