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Health unit lifts county-wide flu warning after number of confirmed cases dropped 0

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

Fluviral, this season's influenza vaccine was photographed at London Middlesex Health Unit. DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /QMI AGENCY

Fluviral, this season's influenza vaccine was photographed at London Middlesex Health Unit. DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /QMI AGENCY

The flu wave has passed.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit announced the influenza outbreak declared Dec. 19 over Monday morning.

While it's still fairly early in the flu season — it typically runs from December through April — "it's very unusual to get a second spike," said Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka medical officer of health.

"It would have to be from a different strain," he said.

Influenza outbreaks typically crescendo and then decline.

"The population becomes saturated with it," Gardner said of the virus. "Essentially, people either have immunity because they've been vaccinated or infected."

This season's outbreak was earlier and more severe than in the past, he added, noting the number of cases reported in the most active week was twice as high as in the second most active week on record, which was in 2011.  

The flu peaked locally between Dec. 30 and Jan. 5, when 108 of the 295 lab-confirmed cases in the region were diagnosed, more than double the total of the previous week. The following week, the number dropped dramatically to 32, with a reduction in the number of people going to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms.

“It is certainly good news for the community the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) has identified a decrease in influenza activity for our area,” says Deb Paton,  manager of infection prevention and control and occupational health and safety at Barrie's Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.

“However, influenza season is still here and while we may see less patients in our Emergency department with influenza-like illness it is still important for everyone to continue to be diligent and practice hand-hygiene, use appropriate personal protective equipment when working or visiting with patients with respiratory symptoms and if you haven’t already - get your flu shot.”
 
 The flu shot is still available in the community through health-care providers and pharmacies.

Get vaccinated early in the flu season, wash your hands frequently, eat well and stay rested, Gardner said, noting high-risk groups like seniors, children under the age of two and those with pre-existing medical conditions are especially susceptible to infection.  

"The main thing is that we think that it's over," Gardner said.

For more information on the flu, visit the health unit's website at simcoemuskokahealth.org, or call Your Health Connection at 1-877-721-7520 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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