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Dec 19
Influenza Reminder: Take precautions when visiting loved ones in hospital during the holiday season

(Saskatoon) - With influenza season underway and the holiday season approaching, Saskatoon Health Region encourages the public to take the time to protect themselves and others from influenza when visiting Region facilities by sanitizing their hands and donning a mask if they have not been vaccinated.

The provincial Influenza Immunize or Mask policy came into effect on December 1, the first day of influenza season as declared by Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer. The policy requires the province's healthcare workers to choose to either get an influenza immunization or to wear a mask in patient and client care areas during influenza season. Healthcare workers who have chosen not to be vaccinated must wear a mask in patient care areas throughout the duration of the season, which is expected to continue to April 3, 2015.

"Our highest priority is patient safety, and the Immunize or Mask policy is one step we can take to better protect both patients and staff in our facilities, clinics and long term care homes," says Dr. Cory Neudorf, Chief Medical Health Officer. The Region has surpassed its target of 80 per cent of employees immunized against influenza by March 31, 2015, with 89.83 per cent of employees having received the vaccination to date.

The start to this year's influenza season has arrived earlier than last year, with laboratory confirmed cases throughout the community, and cases of outbreaks of respiratory illness in several schools and long term care facilities.  Currently the senior population is experiencing the highest rates, with 66 per cent of all laboratory confirmed cases hospitalized compared to 44 per cent last year. 

 "Among all age groups, the percentage of cases that have been hospitalized is not substantially higher this year than in the previous five years, which has ranged from 20 per cent to 25 per cent annually," says Judith Wright, Epidemiologist with the Public Health Observatory.

Saskatoon Health Region began offering drop-in immunization clinics to staff and the public on October 14, 2014. For those individuals who still want to be immunized, appointments are being made until Tuesday, December 23, 2014. Please call 306-655-4358 to book an appointment. Note: Availability may be limited so those who want an appointment are encouraged to book early.

Children six to 23 months of age, as well as adults 60 years of age and older, will be given the injectable vaccine. Those two to 59 years of age will be offered FluMist nasal spray, unless immunocompromised.

For more information, please visit www.4flu.ca.

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