At least seven people in the Thunder Bay district have died from flu-related complications over the last two months, the city’s health unit reports.

"It's very unfortunate," said Darlene Binette, manager of infectious disease programs with the Thunder Bay and District Health Unit.

"Obviously all of these people are in long-term care facilities, so they do have … underlying medical conditions.  That's why it is so important that the rest of us get immunized."

Binette said workers or visitors to nursing homes may expose susceptible patients to the flu virus.

"We may be visiting them," she said. "They may be an elderly parent or an elderly relative. And we're visiting with them and, in fact, we're taking this disease into the facility."

This year the number of outbreaks at area nursing homes has been higher than usual.

Binette noted that's why family members and workers in long-term care homes should get a flu shot.

The health unit held an extra immunization clinic on Saturday because of the increase in flu cases in the area.

Why is the flu shot important?

The flu shot is especially important for people who are at high risk of flu-related complications or hospitalization, including those with chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, asthma), adults over the age of 65 years, healthy children between 6 and 24 months, pregnant women and aboriginal people.

Health unit notes about getting a flu shot:

  • Children over the age of 6 months and those visiting the clinic must have the consent of a legal parent or guardian if they are under the age of 16.
  • Pregnant women in their second or third trimester can be immunized at this clinic; women in their first trimester must speak with their health care provider.
  • Those who are feeling unwell and have respiratory symptoms, including a cough and fever, should stay home and wait until they are feeling better before getting the flu shot.
  • Please wear short sleeves to make it easier to be immunized.
  • This clinic is scent safe so please do not wear scented products.

Those who would like a flu shot can call 625-8346 to make an appointment at the Health Unit’s weekly immunization clinic, held every Wednesday from 1-6 p.m. Many health care providers and some pharmacies are also offering the flu shot. To find a provider near you, visit Ontario.ca/flu.

Source: Thunder Bay and District Health Unit