By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
Remembering all those little things your mother said may help you avoid falling victim to a “very busy” flu season.
Common-sense tips like frequent hand washing, coughing into your sleeve and not sharing personal items are among the suggestions offered by Hamilton Public Health Services’ Jordan Walker to skirt illness.
Walker, manager of the infectious disease prevention and control program with the health protection division, said the 2012-13 flu season has started a little earlier than last year and there has been a lot of influenza activity in the last couple of weeks.
Walker said there were more cases of influenza in the week of Dec. 30 to Jan. 5 than in any other single week in the past five years, excluding the pandemic H1 N1 season of 2009.
Over the course of a normal flu season, one in 10 adults and one in three children will come down with the flu. Between Nov. 1, 2012, and Jan. 3, 2013, Hamilton had 263 lab confirmed cases of influenza A and three lab confirmed cases of influenza B. The two types of flu have different biological features but are largely similar.
People suffering from the flu may at first confuse the symptoms with a common cold. But if it’s the flu that’s got you down, prepare for a slam dunk.
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease that strikes as many as eight million Canadians between November and April.
Unlike a cold that usually comes on gradually, the flu hits like a ton of bricks that usually sends the sufferer directly to bed with a warm, comfy blanket.
A cold and the flu can both cause a runny and stuffy nose, sneezing and a sore throat. The flu, however, takes a greater toll with high fever, headache, severe muscle aches and pains, chest discomfort, tiredness and weakness.
Most people recover from the flu in about a week, but influenza may cause serious issues, especially in infants, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
According to Health Canada, the flu and its complications send about 20,000 Canadians to hospital every year, and between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die.
Disease prevention and control program manager Walker said the best way to avoid getting the flu is a vaccination that targets the evolving strains of the virus.
The city’s Public Health Services provided 6,600 flu shots at clinics during October and November 2012.
“While Public Health clinics are finished for this season, we continue to distribute flu vaccines to pharmacies, as well as local physicians and walk-in clinics,” said Walker.
There are 30 pharmacies in the Hamilton area eligible to provide flu shots. For a complete list, go to www.hamilton.ca/HealthandSocialServices.
Walker also offers these tips to avoid influenza and reduce the spread of infection.
• Wash your hands before handling or eating food, after using the toilet or urinal, after sneezing or wiping your nose, after changing diapers; whenever hands are dirty. Hands spread an estimated 80 per cent of common infectious diseases like the common cold and flu.
• Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze.
• Get a flu shot and keep your immunizations up to date. This will help your immune system stay healthy and prevent you from getting sick with a vaccine preventable illness.
• Stay home if you are sick, so you don't spread your germs.
• Don't share personal items like water bottles, cups, cigarettes and food.
• Get enough rest, exercise and eat properly.