A 42-year-old Pictou County woman and a 62-year-old man in Colchester County have died of the flu, medical officals say.
Dr. Ryan Sommers, Medical Officer of Health for Pictou, Colchester and Cumberland County district health authorities said both people had underlying medical issues as well, but he is encouraging everyone to get the flu shot this season particularly with the H1N1 virus in circulation. The virus, pandemic in 2009, has returned to a certain extent each year and swab tests this week have confirmed it’s currently in Nova Scotia.
“The big difference with this type of flu strain is the age group it impacts,” he said. “It’s not like the traditional flu virus.”
Whereas the traditional flu tends to impact those over 65 and infants, the H1N1 flu tends to affect the younger population more.
Sommers said experts believe an H1N1 virus went through in the ’50s and ’60s which is why the older population tends to have more of an immunity to it.
The flu vaccine is given free and is available at doctor’s offices and at pharmacies. Sommers said they are expecting an increase demand as news of the severity of this flu spreads, but they’re hoping to be able to meet it.
“We’re trying to ensure the vaccine is fairly and equally distributed."
Province urging people to get flu vaccine
The province has a reserve stock of 10,900 doses of vaccine on hold with the manufacturer. Most will be shipped to Nova Scotia and distributed next week, while some will be shared with other provinces through the national vaccine supply working group.
"We are loaning 1,300 doses of vaccine to other provinces that have higher demand for flu shots, and the rest will come to Nova Scotia," said Dr. Frank Atherton, deputy chief public health officer. "We encourage Nova Scotians, especially middle-aged adults and children under five, to make use of this supply of vaccine and get immunized."
Atherton made reference to the two deaths in Nova Scotia.
"Our thoughts are with the families of these patients," said Atherton. "Unfortunately, we do see influenza related deaths in Nova Scotia. That's why it's important for Nova Scotians to get a flu shot to protect themselves and others."
The flu shot is free for all Nova Scotians. It includes vaccination against H1N1, among other strains. It is available from family doctors, family practice nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and clinics offered by Public Health Services and some workplaces.
"We provided 435,000 doses of influenza vaccine this year, which is more than we've ever provided, and we've made it available through pharmacies as well as traditional places to increase the number of Nova Scotians who get immunized," said Atherton.
"Increased immunization, plus simple precautions like hand washing and coughing into your arm, help prevent the spread of the flu."
Regular updates on the flu season are posted every Wednesday on the Department of Health and Wellness website. The updates show trends in flu activity across the province and, as of the first week of January, there are confirmed cases in southwest Nova Scotia