Flu cases on the rise across the region
The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) and Telehealth Ontario are currently seeing an increase in respiratory illness throughout the region. There are many viruses that can cause respiratory illness, including: RSV, cold viruses, and the influenza virus.
Donna Stanley, Manager of Infectious Diseases at the health unit states that there are “confirmed cases of the influenza virus in the region”. The influenza virus causes illness with symptoms such as cough, sore throat, fever, muscle aches, headaches and extreme fatigue. The cough is often severe and can last for 2 or more weeks. The fever and other symptoms will usually resolve in 5-7 days.
To help reduce the burden on busy hospital emergency rooms, Stanley recommends calling Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) for advice. Telehealth Ontario is a free, confidential telephone service you can call for health advice from a Registered Nurse. “Telehealth can help you decide whether or not you go to the hospital or stay at home and care for yourself or your loved ones”.
Viruses like gastroenteritis (the ‘stomach flu’), colds, and the flu cannot be treated with antibiotics and will usually go away on their own. Antibiotics are only used when complications develop from different bacteria, such as an ear infection or pneumonia. At home, you may be able to relieve the symptoms by treating the fever and staying hydrated.
Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of infections from one person to another. Wash your hands with liquid soap and running water for 15 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub when hands are not visibly soiled. Some other routine practices to prevent the spread of infections include: coughing or sneezing into the inside of your elbow then wash your hands, staying home if you are sick, and keeping your vaccinations up to date.
The pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine is available for those 65 years of age and older and those with high-risk conditions. The influenza vaccine is still available and can be given to anyone 6 months of age and older. Call your local Northwestern Health Unit for more information.