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Leeds, Grenville and Lanark’s top doctor talks influenza in our region

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Dr. Paula Stewart says there’s been a massive increase in influenza cases in our region compared to this time last year.

“In our area, so far in 2022, we’ve had 206 reports of influenza, that started at the end of March into April and May,” she says. 

That’s compared to zero cases last year, which Stewart, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit’s Medical Officer of Health, says happened partially because of COVID-19 restrictions still being in place.

According to Stewart, influenza persisting late into spring is unusual, with cases typically cropping up starting in November and disappearing by the end of March.

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“I think that part of it may be because people were so focused on getting COVID vaccines, that they didn’t also get the influenza vaccine in the fall,” she says. 

If you’re concerned about contracting the virus, Stewart suggests following advice for avoiding COVID-19, like wearing a mask and staying home if you’re sick, since influenza spreads similarly.

“We learned with COVID what we need to do with any respiratory infection, anything that’s spread by coughing and sneezing. So, wearing your mask while you’re out in public will not only protect you from COVID, but also rhinovirus, and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus, which causes mild cold-like symptoms].”

Stewart says flu shots are expected to reach long-term care homes in our area starting in mid-October, and become available to the general public by early November. 

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit’s website will have all the details you’ll need to book a flu shot appointment.

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