People flock to pharmacies for flu shot as H1N1 cases rise
Many Thunder Bay residents are getting a flu shot, as confirmed cases of the H1N1 influenza strain continue to rise in the city.
Thunder Bay District Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said even though many doctors' offices were closed over the holidays, people went to local pharmacies to get the flu vaccine.
"We did hear ... from one chain that they [had] ... 1,000 done and maybe more," he told CBC News.
Two pharmacies contacted by CBC News on Monday — a Shoppers Drug Mart store and Woit's Pharmacy — said the demand for flu vaccinations was high, and that they would continue to provide them in the weeks ahead.
Last year, the Ontario government authorized pharmacists to administer the flu vaccine to adults and children five years of age and older. Younger children (six months and older) can receive the flu shot from doctors, nurse practitioners or the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.
H1N1 flu cases in the Thunder Bay District by age groups (percentages approximate, as of January 6):
Children aged 1-5 years: 36%
Adults aged 18 to 65: 35%
Seniors (65+): 12%
Children aged 6-17: 9%
Children aged 6 months - 1 year: 8%
Source: Dr.David Williams, Thunder Bay District Health Unit
As of Monday, there were 78 laboratory-confirmed H1N1 flu cases in the Thunder Bay district — 45 of them in the city, Williams said.That number was expected to increase as more lab results come in, he added.
Usually the elderly are especially vulnerable to flu, Williams said, but only 12 per cent of those affected by H1N1 in the Thunder Bay District are more than 65 years old.
"Normally in the flu season now, with all this activity, we would see a lot of outbreaks in our long-term care facilities. We're not seeing that right now."
Williams said that could be because seniors are keeping up with their vaccinations, or due to a stronger immunity observed among the elderly when the H1N1 strain struck in 2009-2010.
"A number of [seniors] were exposed [to H1N1] ... during the big outbreak back in 1957 and probably have a good memory immune system there."
The majority of confirmed H1N1 cases in the Thunder Bay district right now are children under five years old and adults between 18 and 65 years old, Williams said.
Two people have died.
Williams emphasized that it's not too late for people to get their flu shots, and that people experiencing flu-like symptoms should seek medical treatment.