Public Health officials on P.E.I. say there continues to be strong demand for the flu vaccine with many concerned after reports of severe illness in other parts of the country.
Anne Bartlett and her family were thinking they might pass on the flu vaccine this year but they had a change of heart this week.
“Out west we're hearing lots of stories that it's really hitting Alberta quite hard right now. So we decided time to get in and get our flu shot,” she said.
Much of the flu focus is on Alberta right now. More than 1,500 cases of the flu have been diagnosed in Alberta and there have been 10 confirmed deaths attributable to the H1N1 flu virus this season. Hundreds more are in hospital.
H1N1, nicknamed "swine flu," was first discovered in 2009 and spread quickly throughout North America. The virus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, infecting thousands of Canadians.
On P.E.I. there have been just four confirmed H1N1 cases so far and no hospitalizations. But Dr. Heather Morrison says the bottom line is that H1N1 is here.
“We are still encouraging everyone that's six months of age and older to consider getting their flu shot, but especially given what we know about what's going on in the rest of the country, trying to target those maybe under age five,”said Morrison.
The message to get a flu shot seems to be getting through.
On a typical January day, between 40 and 60 Islanders call the public health office looking for the vaccine.
On Monday, the office received close to 500 calls.
“It's a bit of a surprise for us in January, because we really thought that our flu program was beginning to wind down,” said Caroline Paton, public health nursing manager for Health P.E.I.
All this week, the provincial health department has been working hard to keep up with the unexpected demand and setting up more community flu vaccine clinics around the province.
“The more the public asks for it, the more nurses and staff we'll put on and the more clinics we'll provide. And we'll keep going until the end of January and beyond if we need to,” said Paton.
“The more people who we get immunized, the less people we'll see at the emergency department.”
Health P.E.I. says 40,000 doses of the vaccine have been distributed across the Island. They're hopeful that will be enough to meet the unexpected demand.
Additional clinics are being put on in locations around the province to administer flu shots.
Islanders who want the vaccine must call (1-855-354-4358) to make an appointment. People can also contact their family doctor to receive the vaccine.
Typical symptoms of influenza include fever, headache, aches and pains, cough, and sore throat.