H1N1 confirmed in Waterloo region
The Region of Waterloo Public Health announced last week that there are five confirmed cases of the H1N1 influenza in the region.
Although the cases were not severe, they do mark the beginning of flu season.
“As expected with the advent of the flu season in the fall we are starting to see an increase in cases of influenza,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, associate medical officer for the Region of Waterloo Public Health.
Unlike previous years, this flu season incorporates the H1N1 strain that has been declared a pandemic.
Thus far, Dr. Wang stated that the majority of flu cases seen in the region, like others in the rest of the country, are of the H1N1 strain.
The number of cases confirmed does not represent the actual number of those infected, as those with milder symptoms will go untested.
“We don’t test everybody. We only test a select group: those who have a severe illness, for example, those who are hospitalized or those who are at greater risk of complications,” explained Dr. Wang.
Although H1N1 affects younger age groups including adolescents and young adults, it poses greater risks to those with previous health problems.
In combating H1N1, Dr. Wang said that the same precautions in preventing the spread of the regular seasonal flu apply.
This involves washing or disinfecting your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying at home when you exhibit flu-like symptoms.
Vaccinations for H1N1 will also be available this year in addition to the regular flu vaccine. However, the exact date when it will become available is not clear.
“That is something that’s a bit of a moving schedule,” said Dr. Wang, who also noted that when the vaccine is available for the public it will be announced immediately at www.waterlooregionpandemic.ca.
The first wave of vaccines is expected to become available in late October or early November.
Those at high risk for flu complications will be prioritized to receive the vaccines first.
The rest of the public should have access to the vaccines by the end of November.
“There’s not going to be a very big wait between when [at risk individuals] get them and the rest of the population gets them,” said Dr. Wang.
-One or more of the following:
-Wash your hands regularly
-Use hand sanitizers with 60% alcohol content
-Stay home if you exhibit symptoms