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Region makes it official, with flu season now underway

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Seems like it’s been the holiday season for a while, but it’s certainly flu season now, as the Region of Waterloo Public Health department last week confirmed the first two cases of influenza in the area.

“These first cases are a signal that the flu season has started in Waterloo Region. The best way for people to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu is to get immunized,” said the region’s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang in a release.

Those looking to avoid getting sick with the flu are advised to get their immunization shot for the upcoming season, suggests Dr. Rabia Bana.

“Immunization is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. It protects not only yourself but also individuals around you especially those who might be more vulnerable to developing serious illness from the flu,” she said.

With just two reported cases of the flu in the region, the risk is still low but that doesn’t mean it is non-existent and it is best to take action to prevent getting sick, she added. While the timing of the flu season varies from year to year, this year it started early in November and can last until about April.

Symptoms of the flu, a respiratory illness caused by viruses, include fever, chills, coughing, sore throat, congestion, a runny nose, headache and muscle pain. Most people will recover from these symptoms from seven up to 10 days.

While these are the typical symptoms, children under 5, pregnant women and adults over the age of 65 tend to be at a higher risk for developing other complications, including pneumonia.

Those who are not comfortable with getting a vaccination can alternatively take other precautions, says Bana, including washing your hands frequently, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and covering your mouth and nose when sneezing.

That said, Bana still emphasizes the flu shot as the best option.

“Immunization is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting the flu,” she said.

In the region, Public Health has reported on a limited amount of influenza cases – which can vary in the strains they carry from A to B. Right now, Bana says it is too early to determine which strain is likely to be the most prevalent.

The province last month launched its influenza immunization campaign that distributes vaccines to community health care providers.

“We also are continuing to promote the message that everyone over 6 months old should get their flu shot,” said Bana.

The vaccine is available at pharmacies, walk-in clinics and Public Health clinics. Many locations offer the flu shot without an appointment.

Click here for more information on influenza and what can be done to prevent getting sick during this season.

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