Get your shot: Flu con­firmed in Sar­nia-Lambton

The Observer (Sarnia) - - FRONT PAGE - TYLER KULA

The push is on for peo­ple who haven’t got­ten their flu shots to get vac­ci­nated be­fore Christ­mas vis­it­ing sea­son kick sin.

So says Erin Court­ney, health pro­tec­tion su­per­vi­sor at Lambton pub­lic health.

“We know that there’s a spike that hap­pens over Christ­mas, and Christ­mas is in just a few weeks,” she said, not­ing the health unit is en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to get in­oc­u­lated against the virus that, last sea­son, killed three peo­ple in Sar­nia-Lambton. “You have to pro­tect your­self, but also those around you.”

There’ve been two lab-con­firmed cases in Sar­nia-Lambton so far this sea­son, she said. Last flu sea­son — typ­i­cally mid-fall to mid-spring — there were 107. The num­ber of con­firmed cases at this point isn’t as im­por­tant as rec­og­niz­ing they in­di­cate flu is in the com­mu­nity, Court­ney said.

“So there’s more of a push then, ‘OK, make sure that you’re vac­ci­nated.’ ”

Up­take at the health unit’s flu shot clin­ics, which re­cently wrapped up, was stronger this year, she said, at­tribut­ing the uptick to the avail­abil­ity of a high-dose vac­cine that bet­ter pro­tects against the A-strain.

It wasn’t avail­able in phar­ma­cies, she said, and is the rec­om­mended ver­sion for peo­ple 65 and older.

“Be­cause the A virus is typ­i­cally the one that is detri­men­tal more to age 65-plus,” she said.

It is still avail­able in doc­tors’ of­fices, she said, adding the reg­u­lar flu vac­cine is also avail­able via phar­ma­cies.

Mean­while, in­fluenza hasn’t yet had any sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on emer­gency room waits, but Blue­wa­ter Health is al­ready us­ing pro­vin­cial fund­ing for 12 ex­tra beds dur­ing “surge” sea­son, said Laurie Zim­mer, vice-pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions with the hos­pi­tal group.

“We’ve felt the ad­di­tional flow since the sum­mer­time, so I would say we’re in it,” she said.

The ex­tra beds are funded un­til April with $700,000 from the prov­ince.

Hos­pi­tals in Sar­nia and Petro­lia were swamped with more pa­tients than beds last win­ter, and Sar­nia con­tin­ued to run at more than 100 per cent ca­pac­ity dur­ing the sum­mer, Blue­wa­ter Health has said, prompt­ing of­fi­cials to hire ex­tra staff.

On av­er­age, 12 new staff are be­ing hired cur­rently per month, said spokesper­son An­dria Al­lenAp­pel­doorn.

Last year’s spike in peo­ple seek­ing care came around the be­gin­ning of Jan­uary, with peo­ple in emer­gency wait­ing more than 20 hours for a bed to open up.

“Hope­fully we won’t see it as bad as we have in the past. How­ever, we are still very pre­pared this year,” Zim­mer said.

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