The first case of seasonal influenza has been reported in Saskatchewan. Other provinces have also reported cases of seasonal influenza. “This is a sign that seasonal influenza will return this winter,” says Karen Grauer, Manager of Disease Control for Saskatoon Health Region.

There has been a steady increase in the numbers of Saskatoon Health Region staff, physicians and volunteers getting their influenza vaccine each week since the campaign started in early October. Protecting those most at risk is why the Region’s Occupational Health and Safety team has worked hard to promote the influenza vaccine. Currently, about 48 per cent of employees have been immunized.

“We are always impressed by those who take a moment out of their day to ensure they receive their immunization – knowing that is what is best for their clients, residents, and patients,” says Shelly McFadden, Director of Worksafe and Employee Wellness. “It’s not just about the people we serve but also our families and friends, keeping them free from illness.”

Mass immunization clinics drew thousands of people to receive their influenza vaccine.

For optimal protection against influenza, the National Advisory Council of Immunization recommends 80 per cent coverage in health-care facilities. With that, OH&S is encouraging more people to roll up their sleeves and get immunized.

More than 50,000 residents in Saskatoon Health Region have been immunized since October 12, 2010.

The provincial government is covering the cost of seasonal influenza vaccines this year compared to past years where there has been a $20 charge for people who are not considered to be in high-risk health categories.

“We have seen a greater response compared to seasonal influenza immunizations in 2008,” says Grauer. “Typically, about 15 per cent of the population gets immunized each year. This year, we are already at 16 per cent so that is great news. But it’s not enough to provide wide coverage against influenza in the community.”

While drop-in clinics are now closed and Public Health will continue to offer seasonal influenza immunizations by calling 655-4flu (655-4358) to book an appointment. As well, some physician offices are still offering vaccine.

“Being immunized protects not only you, but those around you,” says Deputy Medical Health Officer Dr. Ross Findlater. “We hope more people will continue to be immunized over the next few weeks while vaccine is still available.”

To receive a seasonal influenza immunization, visit www.4flu.ca for more information.