Melfort and area residents urged to get flu shots

Health officials are seeing “many severe illnesses” in the city.

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Melfort and area is being hit hard by influenza. With one of the highest rates of the respiratory illness in Saskatchewan, the number of illnesses continues to grow, putting intense pressure on health care services

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The Melfort Primary Health Care Team Community Wellness highly recommends that local residents get the flu shot.

The shot is available at most pharmacies for those over the age of five. Children under five need to be immunized by public health. The vaccine contains antigens that fight four strains of flu, including the one most dominant in Melfort and area.

Dr. Mohammad Khan, medical officer of health for Melfort and area, said the rapid spread and high incidence of the virus is linked to people no longer observing pandemic protocols, like wearing masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing.

“It’s not more virulent than any seasonal influenza we have seen,” Dr. Khan said. “For the last two years because of COVID, there were public health measures in place. As we were protecting ourselves against COVID, it was an automatic protection against influenza and other respiratory viruses.”

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In a social media post Wednesday, the Melfort Primary Health Care Team Community Wellness said it is “seeing many severe illnesses among otherwise healthy individuals” in the community.

People avoided the flu by practicing pandemic health protection measures. But now that those measures have been relaxed, it is likely that many people catching the flu are feeling symptoms more acutely, Khan indicated.

Symptoms of flu include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, a headache and a runny nose.

“People have to keep in mind that there is a very effective vaccine against the virus that is circulating,” Dr. Khan said, adding that COVID-19 is still with us. He recommended getting the most up to date booster shot for it.

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The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health’s most recent community respiratory illness surveillance (CRISP) report found that Melfort and area had the highest test positivity rate for flu in the province – 60.5 per cent compared to the 21.8 per cent provincial average.

The area’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 was below average – 7.6 percent compared to 9.9 percent provincially.

Overall, northern areas of the province have much higher rates of test positivity for flu – 27.5 percent compared to 10.3 percent for southern areas.

In the last CRISP report found only 15 percent of the population of Melfort and area were up-to-date on flu vaccination. Dr. Khan said the two-year respite from catching the flu may have resulted in complacency about getting the shot.

“I would ask people to take the vaccine and other precautionary measures,” he added. “Stay home if you are sick, use proper hand washing and use a mask.”

While healthy people may think of the flu as a nuisance, for the very young, the very old, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions, it can be very serious, even deadly, Dr. Khan said.

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