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First cases in Waterloo Region make flu season official

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’Tis the season … for the flu.

The first local cases of influenza have officially been reported in Waterloo Region.

Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, fatigue and muscle or joint aches are all symptoms of influenza, although it can cause more severe illness than just the common cold.

Spread from person to person directly by coughing or sneezing, or indirectly through contaminated surfaces, the flu is at its peak between November and April. The infectious period for influenza can last two to five days, up to seven in young children, after the onset of symptoms.

Region of Waterloo Public Health advises anyone experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness to stay home until symptoms begin  to lessen, cover coughing, frequently wash hands and to not visit persons in hospitals, retirement or long-term care homes.

Canada-wide it is estimated that there are 20,000 hospitalization and 4,000 deaths each year related to influenza.

However, the most at risk people for influenza-related complications are adults and children with underlying health conditions, compromised immune systems, healthy pregnant women, residents of care homes and facilities, people over the age of 65 and children under 5.

According to Public Health, the best protection for persons over the age of six months in the influenza immunization – offered free to anyone that lives, works or attends school in Ontario. It is reported that the vaccine can prevent influenza illness in 50-80 per cent of healthy children and adults. However, frequently washing hands and disinfecting touched surfaces are everyday ways to prevent getting sick.

Flu vaccine is available through pharmacies, primary health care providers, walk-in clinics and Public Health’s family flu clinics through Ontario’s universal influenza immunization program.

“It is the perfect time to be getting flu vaccine now when our activity is still relatively low because it does take a couple of weeks for the body to build up that immune response to the vaccine, so it is optimal for people to be thinking about it and be vaccinated,” said Kristy Wright, manager of  infectious disease, tuberculosis control & emergency preparedness with the Public Health department.

Wright noted that through their website, people interested in being vaccinated can use the flu locator page to determine where to get the vaccine close to where they live.

According to the province’s flu locator page, within Woolwich Township you can get the free flu shot at Martin’s Pharmacy in St. Jacobs, Food Basics Pharmacy, Elmira Remedy’s Rx Pharmacy, Woolwich Total Health Pharmacy and Shoppers Drug Mart in Elmira. As for Wellesley Township, Cook’s Pharmacy in the village offers the service.

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