A woman gets a flu shot Saturday morning.
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While it’s not even supposed to be flu season yet, it’s already been a bad year so far.
The season usually starts around the end of January. But by late October, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit already started seeing cases, along with outbreaks at several long-term care homes. Infectious disease program manager Darlene Binette said that is unusual.
“This is actually quite a bad year,” she said Saturday as the health unit hosted a flu shot clinic. “Probably one of the worst ones I’ve seen over the past several years.”
The flu season here usually mirrors what happens in the Southern hemisphere. With reports coming out of Australia that the season hit hard and fast, Binette said she wasn’t surprised that the north’s season started early. She just wants to remind people that it can last well into April so it’s not too late to get immunized.
“It is certainly circulating more this year than last year,” she said.
Those who aren’t getting the shot because they think they can handle the punch influenza packs might be right. But they’re putting vulnerable people around them, like seniors and small children, at risk. Then there’s the risk of overwhelming emergency rooms.
“By getting the flu shot and protecting yourself you can hopefully avoid that,” Binette said.
In most cases anyone over the age of six months can get the shot. The health unit has given out more than 11,000 so far. While that seems like a large number, Binette said it’s down from previous years. Because doctors, nurse practitioners and now pharmacists can give the shot, she’s hoping people are getting it somewhere.
“It’s just important that you get it,” she said.
When all of the outlets for getting the shot are combined, around 40,000 people get immunized in Thunder Bay every year, around 40 per cent of the population.
“We’d like to get 100 per cent,” Binette said.
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