Influenza activity expected to add to high number of ED visits

Cold and flu season have begun in earnest in Simcoe and Muskoka, and will approach peak activity in one to four weeks. The activity locally is similar to what is being seen in the rest of Ontario.

The influenza activity is also adding to the already high number of emergency room visits and admissions into local hospitals following the holiday season. Influenza can cause symptoms such as fever, body aches, cough and severe fatigue that can last for days to weeks, and is generally more severe than just a cold. You can help ease pressure on your local hospital by getting the flu shot, visiting a walk-in clinic, or making an appointment with your family doctor in lieu of visiting the ER.

“The emergency room remains the safest place for you to go if you are experiencing symptoms such as difficulty breathing, continuous vomiting, sudden severe headache, chest pain, seizures, stiff neck and sensitivity to light, or have an infant under three months with a fever over 100.4F” says Dr. Rebecca Van Iersel, Physician Lead at the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network. “However, if you are experiencing mild flu like symptoms please consider other options such as making an appointment with your family doctor, visiting a walk-in clinic, or by recuperating at home”.

Dr. Colin Lee, Associate Medical Officer of Health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, says the flu shot is still a wise choice for anyone who has not yet received the vaccine, as we have still not yet reached peak activity. As well, the vaccine is currently a good match for the predominant flu strain in Ontario this year. The vaccine will also protect against a potential second wave of flu that often comes between February and April.

“It’s important for people to get the flu shot,” Dr. Lee said. “We know that this year’s circulating strain will cause more severe illness than last year’s strain, especially among elderly people and those with medical conditions. People who have been immunized will also be helping to prevent the flu from spreading to those vulnerable people.”

Flu vaccine is readily available through most local pharmacies and health care providers. To find the nearest pharmacy giving the flu shot visit the website www.ontario.ca/flu.

People can also protect themselves with frequent hand washing, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of rest.

For more information about walk-in clinics in your area please call 2-1-1 or visit www.nsmhealthline.ca. More information about influenza can be found on www.simcoemuskokahealth.org.

ISSUED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH SIMCOE MUSKOKA DISTRICT HEALTH UNIT AND THE NORTH SIMCOE MUSKOKA LOCAL HEALTH INTEGRATION NETWORK.