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Dept. of Health urges influenza vaccination

With two cases of the flu already in the territory, the Department of Health launched its annual flu shot campaign across the territory.

Public health nurse Sarah MacRury gives deputy minister of health Colleen Stockley her flu shot Oct. 24 in Iqaluit, as flu season gets an early start in the territory. photo courtesy of Department of Health

Deputy chief medical officer of health Mike Patterson said flu season has arrived early in Nunavut, while confirming the two cases.

"Normally, we don’t see it in the territory until December/January," Patterson stated.

"We’re braced for it to be worse than average based on what’s happening in the southern hemisphere already."

Reports indicate Australia is experiencing its worst flu season on record, with Britain bracing itself for its worst season in 50 years.

"Whether it means it's going to be a bad season this year in Nunavut, it's too early to tell, but obviously that's our concern," Patterson stated.

Flu shots, or influenza vaccines, are available free at every community health centre, and Patterson recommends everyone go in and get it, particularly anyone with a compromised immune system, such as people being treated for cancer or on certain medications, elders, people with chronic lung disease, and young children.

"Protecting yourself against influenza by getting the vaccine also protects those around you at greatest risk, including babies, elders and anyone with a weakened immune system," he stated, adding each year between 4,000 and 8,000 Canadians die from influenza.

The Department of Health notes influenza is highly contagious and babies under six months of age cannot receive the vaccine. The illness spreads through coughing, sneezing or nasal fluids. The department encourages frequent hand-washing, covering coughs, and staying home when unwell. Nunavut's flu season typically runs from November to May, but often peaks in January and February. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, runny eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, muscle ache, extreme weakness and feeling tired, and the illness typically lasts two to 10 days.