Keeping a watchful eye

There are 40 reportable diseases in Ontario and influenza is one of them.
Among the local agencies with a watchful eye on the impact the influenza virus has on district residents is the Northwestern Health Unit.
Under the Health Protection and Promotions Act, physicians who diagnose ’flu or labs that identify influenza from specimens are obligated to report their findings to a medical officer of health. “Influenza, period, is reportable,” Ken Allan, team leader of the local health unit’s infectious disease control, stressed yesterday.
Health units and their medical officers across the province then forward that information to the provincial reportable disease information system.
Besides monitoring the level of influenza activity here, the health unit strongly promotes vaccinations against the virus–particularly among the elderly and those suffering from existing medical problems.
Old age and chronic illness take their toll on the body’s immune system, leaving little fight left for the ’flu bug. Without a ’flu shot, those high-risk individuals could face fatal consequences should they contract the virus.
In fact, influenza has been identified as the fifth-leading cause of death (especially when contracted by the chronically ill), Allan noted.
“In the fall, we strongly promote the ’flu vaccine, especially for people with an existing medical condition such as chronic respiratory or heart disease, and diabetes,” he said.
“Influenza has quite an economic impact, as well,” he continued. “The last estimate I saw was something like a billion dollars per year (nationwide) in lost work and productivity.”
While Allan said more cases of lab-confirmed influenza had been
reported to the health unit here this year over last, there hasn’t been reports of serious outbreaks in Rainy River District.
“Knock on wood,” he added.