Whitehorse H1N1 victim in BC intensive care

As of this morning the Yukon has reached a total of three hospitalized cases with confirmed H1N1 influenza. The first, announced on Tuesday, was a school-age boy who had pre-existing medical conditions.

As of this morning the Yukon has reached a total of three hospitalized cases with confirmed H1N1 influenza.

The first, announced on Tuesday, was a school-age boy who had pre-existing medical conditions.

The boy has since been released from hospital.

The second was a school-age girl from Whitehorse, according to Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s medical officer of health.

The girl was transferred out of the territory and remains in serious condition in pediatric intensive care in BC.

The young girl also had underlying medical conditions that contributed to her severe reaction to the flu.

Despite two recent cases in Ontario of healthy children dying as a result of contracting the H1N1 flu virus, the majority of people who become seriously ill do have underlying medical conditions, said Hanley.

Hanley couldn’t give any details about the third case because he had just heard the news and had yet to notify the family.

“There is a lot of anxiety around influenza,” said Hanley on Thursday.

“But it’s still important that people remember that if they have the flu this is, for the vast majority of people, just the flu.”

“We want people to be anxious enough to go get vaccinated, but not so anxious that they think they have to come in to the hospital,” he added.

The emergency room at Whitehorse General Hospital has been almost overrun by visitors who may have the flu.

Wednesday, there were 60 excess visits from people with influenza-like symptoms.

Hanley reminds Yukoners that there is no need to visit the hospital just to find out if they have H1N1.

“There is no need to go to the hospital to be assessed, unless your symptoms are worsening and you’re experiencing a shortness of breath,” he said.

And people with underlying medical conditions – such as heart or kidney disease, diabetes, or asthma and chronic lung disease – should also see a physician if flu symptoms occur.

Everyone else should just stay home and wait it out as you would with the normal flu.

For those that would like to see a doctor, the territorial government has announced a new flu assessment clinic.

Starting today, the Taiga Clinic, located at 210 Elliot Street, will be open to flu patients from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

If needed, the clinic’s hours can be extended with 24 hours’ notice.

“Again, this isn’t for people to know whether they have the flu or not,” said Hanley.

“This is for people who have flu-like symptoms who either feel like they are getter worse, feel like they can’t cope at home, or have underlying medical conditions.”

Symptoms of the H1N1 flu are similar to regular influenza, which include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.

The clinic will also act as a dispensing site of antiviral medicines for those who need them.

The Yukon has yet to see the pandemic reach the levels experienced in other provinces, like BC.

But this is only the beginning.

“We are rapidly catching up to some of the intensity that’s being seen in parts of BC,” said Hanley.

“We are still in the upswing and we’re seeing rapidly increasing numbers of cases.”

The Yukon has a large number of laboratory-confirmed cases coming in on a daily basis.

And Hanley has heard anecdotal reports of an increase in workplace absenteeism.

Several schools have also been reporting higher than normal absenteeism.

None of the schools are experiencing an “outbreak” of H1N1 influenza, which is defined as more than ten per cent of students having the illness.

“But some have been getting close,” said Hanley.

“We’ve been getting very good reporting from the schools and it’s a very good indicator for us of overall influenza activity.”

Hanley is still recommending everyone to brave the long line-ups and get their flu shots.

“Now is the time to get vaccinated,” he said.

“And the earlier you get vaccinated, the more chance you’ll have of benefiting from it.”

The flu shot takes 10 days to fully kick in, but this wave of the flu could last from six to eight weeks, and maybe longer.

So the earlier you get the shot, the better.

People looking for their vaccination have encountered long waiting times all across the country, with some in Calgary waiting up to six hours for the shot.

“We would love to vaccinate everyone in a day but it’s physically not possible,” said Hanley.

“So bring a book, be patient, talk to your friends, be prepared to wait and don’t let that turn you away.”

Some people have registered, gone back to work, and then returned to the vaccination clinic later to get their shot.

As of the end of Thursday, more than 5,830 doses of the vaccine had been given out across the territory, said Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living.

“We’ve now vaccinated 12 per cent of the Yukon population in three days.”

There’s been some confusion over whether or not people who are sick can receive the vaccination.

If you just have a cold, it’s okay to line up to get your shot.

You can get vaccinated as long as you don’t have the flu or an active fever.

And when you feel well enough to go back to work and when the symptoms are more or less gone, then you can line up to get your shot.

For more information about the flu and vaccinations, visit www.fightflu.ca, www.hss.gov.yk.ca or call 811.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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