By Tina Comeau
The province’s chief medical health officer said Wednesday the province has been seeing some decrease in H1N1 activity, although he cautioned that it is still important for people to get immunized. “While we may be starting to see some decrease of H1N1 activity, I do need to emphasis the importance to Nova Scotians to immunize. We still have a lot of H1N1 activity right now, it will still be around for a number of weeks, we know there is a potential for having a third wave of H1N1 over the winter,” said Dr. Robert Strang, who added H1N1, in all likelihood, is going to be one of the predominant strains of influenza that will be seen on an annual basis.
Only people in hospital are now being lab tested to confirm if they have H1N1, so there will never be a true figure on the number of people who have had it.
The percentage of emergency room visits with influenza-like illness remains high, but for the week of Nov. 8-14 there had been a decrease of two per cent from the week before. Physicians around the province had also reported that the percentage of patients with influenza-like illness had decreased. “If people are saying I haven’t been immunized yet, I haven’t gotten sick and H1N1 seems to be going away therefore I don’t need to get immunized, that’s completely wrong,” said Dr. Strang. “It’s not going away…It may wean away but it could come back in the winter and it’s going to be a major strain around for a number of years.”
There has been another H1N1 death reported in the province. A woman over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions died in the Halifax area. It’s the third death linked to H1N1 since the spring. All deaths have been women over the age of 50.
To date, the province has still only been immunizing people in identified high-risk groups – so far over 203,000 people. Asked on Nov. 18 when the general public may be eligible for the vaccine, Dr. Strang said discussions are underway to determine the next group to be added to the vaccine program. He suggested the next large group that needs to be targeted is people over 65. “Once we do that group…the only remaining group after that people from five to 64 who are otherwise healthy,” he said. “In all likelihood we’re a week to two weeks away from opening it up to everybody in the population.”
Meanwhile, asked whether there have been any adverse reactions to the H1N1 vaccine in this province, Dr. Strang said there have been three cases where people were treated for an anaphylactic reaction. These reactions occurred immediately after receiving the vaccine at the immunization clinics and the people were treated right away by Public Health staff. He said it is expected that there will be some adverse reactions, with a smaller number of more severe reactions, to the vaccine. But this is the same, he said, for all flu vaccines.
H1N1 summary Nov. 8-14:
Since the beginning of the 2009-10 influenza season, which runs from September 2009 to September 2010, the province has had: •634 lab-confirmed H1N1 cases •158 hospitalizations for H1N1 •two H1N1-related deaths (there was another death in July) •For the week of Nov. 8 to Nov. 14, there were 51 new hospitalizations of people with lab-confirmed H1N1. •The percentage of emergency room visits with influenza-like illness remains high, but has decreased to 24 per cent, down two per cent from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7. •The percentage of patients with influenza-like illness has decreased to 11 per cent from 19.1 per cent, as reported by physicians around the province.
The Department of Health also reported the following for the week of Nov. 8 to Nov. 14: •6,950 visits to flu assessment centres •3,179 influenza-like illness emergency department visits •239 influenza-like illness admissions to hospital. Ninety of those people were still in hospital as of Nov. 14
Healthlink 811, Nova Scotia's 24-hour telecare service continues to experience a high volume of calls, with more than 7,000 calls for the week of Nov. 8-14.
The website, www.nshealthlink811.ca , had more than 2,500 web hits.
Province sees some decrease in H1N1 activity
Another death reported, bringing number in province to three
By Tina Comeau
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