As flu season comes early to N.W.T., health official urges people to get the shot

There have been several confirmed cases of the flu in the territory, according to the government.

4 of 5 cases confirmed as H1N1 virus in the territory in the past 2 weeks

Dr. Kami Kandola, the territory's chief public health officer, says there have been about five cases of Type A influenza in the last two weeks. (Steve Silva/CBC)

The Northwest Territories chief public health officer says flu season has come early, and she recommends people get their flu shots.

"In the last two weeks, we've had about five confirmed cases of Type A influenza, of which four of five were H1N1," Dr. Kami Kandola said.

There's a greater risk of getting a respiratory illness during colder months, in part, because people stay indoors where it can be more crowded and easier to spread viruses, she said.

The season often lasts between late fall to about April, peaking early in the new year. Last season, there were about 183 confirmed cases of the flu, along with 45 influenza-like illnesses in the territory, Kandola said.

That number could be significantly higher, however, because not everyone gets tested, she added.

"Last year was a particularly bad period because we had a different type of flu A. It was H3N2, and there was a vaccine mismatch," Kandola said, adding that there was a higher number of flu cases than average globally.

"This year, if people get vaccinated and it's covered, we don't anticipate a high flu season."

Kandola says people shouldn't worry about getting the flu from the flu shot because it's not a live virus being injected. (Tony Talbot/AP)

Shot won't give people the flu

The vaccine's protection eventually wanes, and there are different strains to account for, so a new shot every year is important, she said.

Getting the flu shot early is ideal, but there is still value in getting it, even if it's later in the season.

Most people have no negative reaction after getting the shot, Kandola said. But it may cause redness and/or soreness in some, and others may feel fatigued, though "that is not the flu because this particular vaccine that we give through injection, it's a dead virus. It's not a live virus."

About 20 per cent of the population in the territory gets the flu shot each year, she said. It takes about two weeks after getting the shot to build immunity to the flu.

Flu shot clinics in several communities in the territory are wrapping up this month, but residents can still get one by contacting their local community health centre or regional public health unit.

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