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NWT health officials confirm first flu case of 2015/2016

The Northwest Territories has its first case of the flu for the 2015/2016 flu season. 

Dr. André Corriveau, the territory’s chief public health officer, confirmed the case to Moose FM on Tuesday.

Corriveau couldn’t say if the person contracted the influenza within the territory or while travelling outside of the NWT.

“We have our first positive report,” he said. “We’re still putting together some information but we’re getting close to the season where influenza usually arrives and starts to spread.

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“We think this is a good time to remind folks that immunization is still a good idea against the flu.”

Corriveau says the peak flu season is usually right after Christmas, when kids return to school and residents typically get back from vacation.

This year, the territory is offering an enhanced vaccine.

“We have access to a newer formulation of the vaccine that has four strains instead of three which means enhanced protection overall.

“We never know what strain is going to be dominant from year-to-year so there’s a bit of guesswork that’s put into the vaccine and now we have a vaccine that has four strains of influenza – two of type A and two of type B.

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While Corriveau says everyone should get vaccinated, it’s especially important for children under the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic disease to get immunized.

Health professionals say those groups are at risk of developing further complications if they contract the flu. But that doesn’t mean everyone else should skip out on getting their shots.

“Even for healthier adults, getting immunized is not necessarily just for yourself. It will also avoid the opportunity for you to spread it to someone who’s at higher risk,” said Corriveau.

During the last flu season, 21 percent of Northwest Territories residents got their flu shot – 9,235 individuals. More than half of seniors received the vaccine, but only 15 percent of those aged 10 to 19 turned up.

Immunization rates in Yellowknife were among the lowest in the territory. Around 18 percent of Yellowknife and Dettah residents got their vaccine, compared to other examples such as 54 percent in Deline, 31 percent in Fort Resolution, 28 percent in Fort Smith and 24 percent in Hay River.

In Fort Liard, just three percent of residents received a flu vaccine, according to Department of Health figures.

In the last flu season – from November 2014 to August 2015 – there were 149 cases of flu or flu-like viruses in the territory. Cases peaked in February and March.

The vaccine is free of charge and requires no appointment to get. To find out when and where you can get yours, click here.

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