Flu season in full swing

By Geoff Lee

January 12, 2017 12:00 AM

Hold that cough and sneeze.
The cold and influenza season is in full swing in the Lloydminster area, but Prairie North Health Region (PNHR) classifies this year’s flu outbreak as a normal season.
“Obviously, there are a lot of cases of respiratory illness out there, but it’s expected for the season,” said Dr. Mandiangua Nsungu, medical health officer for PNHR.
The main culprit this year is the H3N2 flu strain with some type B viruses as well, but with very few severe cases reported so far in Saskatchewan.
“So to us, it’s a normal season—those cases are being caused by influenza viruses and the most important thing to know is those influenza viruses are actually covered by this year’s vaccine,” said Nsungu.
He said there are years when the H1N1 strain is most prevalent, but this year, H3N2 is the most widespread strain.
The doctor urges people who have not yet been vaccinated to consider getting their vaccine now, with the peak flu season two or three weeks away.
“Beside those influenza viruses, there are also non-influenza viruses that are circulating,” said Nsungu, who included cold viruses.
He said if you have cold or flu symptoms, the important thing is to see your health care provider for a medical assessment.
“The second thing is, of course, if you’re sick, stay home so you don’t send the disease to other people.”
He cautioned if you are at home ill, watch for signs of your condition deteriorating to trigger a second visit to a doctor including shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.
“If your child is too weak or is difficult to wake, those are danger signs that should lead a parent to see their health care provider,“said Nsungu.
He said influenza is more prone to cause complications than colds, especially in young children, the elderly and people who have chronic illness.
“Influenza is more severe than cold,” said Nsungu,  who added the main symptoms of colds are a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and sometime fever and muscle aches.
“If it is influenza, mostly the signs will be fever and cough sometimes sore throat and muscle pain so you can see the signs and symptoms overlap,” he said.
Nsungu said the influenza virus is very unpredictable but H3N2 is the one that’s circulating.
As for which is worse, he said you can’t give a blanket statement that one strain will always be more severe than another.
“You cannot says H3N2 is necessarily less severe than H1N1,” he said.
“It does not work that way.”
Nsungu said severity depends on the individual, the age group, and the year among many factors.
“What I’m saying is, so far it’s a normal season and we don’t have anything out of the ordinary, but the influenza virus is very unpredictable.”

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