The number of confirmed cases of influenza A has doubled in the past week in Gray-Bruce.
A total of five cases of influenza A were confirmed in Gray-Bruce between Dec. 2 and 8, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 10. The Gray Bruce Health Unit received its first confirmed case on Nov. 18, about the same time the first case was confirmed last year.
Denna Leach, a public health manager of the infectious disease at the health unit, said the increase in reported cases is an important reminder for people to do their part to help control the spread of the virus.
"Our hope is that we can continue to mitigate these rates by people continuing to get their flu shots, staying home if they are ill, handwashing, and staying as healthy as you can," said Leach. "We are hopeful that we will not ramp up as we continue to try and reduce the spread of influenza."
The flu is a contagious respiratory disease that most people recover from after a few days, but it can be life threatening to some, especially elderly, young children, pregnant women, or those with certain chronic medical illnesses.
Among the symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea can occur from the flu, though it is more common in children than adults.
Leach said it is not too late to get the flu shot, which is available at pharmacies and health practitioners. Flu shot clinics are also held at family health teams and other medical practitioner groups.
"It does not take the flu shot while working," Leach said. "But if you are visiting old people or young people over the holiday season, now is a good time to get the flu shot, which will allow them to be protected over Christmas holidays."
Leach said that while last year's shot was a bit disappointing in terms of its effectiveness, early indications are that this year's shot is a better match to the strains making the rounds.
"At this point we are hopeful that it is a better match," said Leach.
New this season, the health unit has included a weekly flu shot on its website. The bulletin found on the main website at www.publichealthgreybruce.on.ca under the Hot Topics tabs is updated every Tuesday with the previous week's influenza activity.
The health unit traditionally begins tracking flu cases starting Sept. 1 and running until the end of March. The past week was Week 15 of the 2018-19 influenza season.
While there have been five reported cases of influenza A, there have been no reported cases of influenza B or influenza A and B so far this season.
And there has yet to be an influenza outbreak in any long-term care homes, retirement homes or hospitals in Gray-Bruce.
Leach said they hope to keep the risk of an outbreak as low as possible by encouraging anyone who does not feel well to postpone their visits to hospitals, retirement homes or long-term care until they are feeling better.
"Even if they are feeling well, using the hand sanitizers as they enter and exits those places will help reduce the spread of infections or any existing germs that are out in the community," Leach said.