Nunavut's flu season begins as 1st lab-confirmed cases reported
‘It will likely spread from community to community,’ says Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health
Nunavut has recorded its first confirmed cases of influenza this season and health officials are encouraging people to get the flu shot to protect themselves from the infectious virus.
"We count lab-confirmed cases of influenza but that's the tip of the iceberg," said Dr. Maureen Baikie, Nunavut's Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Many people who get the flu don't see a health care provider and many who do see a health care provider don't get tested for influenza because it's not necessary, said Baikie.
"Influenza circulating in the territory means that it will likely spread from community to community because influenza is quite infectious," said Baikie.
Getting influenza can be serious for the very young, elderly and those that have chronic illnesses, such as heart and lung conditions or diabetes, said Baikie.
"It can lead to hospitalization or it could be more serious," said Baikie.
How to protect yourself
The Department of Health is encouraging Nunavummiut to take precautions.
"There's several ways to protect yourself from influenza. The most important is to get immunized with influenza vaccine," said Baikie.
The flu vaccine is free and available at all community health centres in Nunavut and at the Iqaluit Public Health building.
"Also it's important to wash your hands because the virus does stay on various surfaces," Baikie said.
Flu symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Usually a loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
While many of the symptoms of influenza are similar to the common cold there are some differences.
"Common cold usually manifests with a runny nose, sometimes a fever. It's usually in the upper airways. It's not a whole body feeling like you get with the fatigue and the body aches with the influenza," said Baikie.
Anyone with symptoms is encouraged to stay at home, get rest and drink fluids.
"For people who are sick with influenza in order to avoid spreading it to others it's important again to carry out careful hand washing, to cough or sneeze in your sleeve or in a tissue and put it in a garbage can appropriately," said Baikie.