H1N1 appears to have spiked in the region and the number of sick people is declining, all this before the majority of the population has even had the chance to be immunized.
Healthcare workers in the region were immunized the week of October 27 and the first of the high risk groups, children from six month to five years, rolled up their sleeves in Coronach on November 6.
On November 3, the Provincial government announced that the next immunizations will be given to children from Kindergarten to Grade six. Area children will be able to receive the immunization at the Bengough Community Centre on November 12 from 2 pm till 8 pm.
Janice Giroux, Vice President Community Health for Sun Country Health Region, says all the immunization plans are subject to change - depending on the availability of vaccine that arrives from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health.
"Sun Country Health Region will follow the Ministry of Health directives and guidelines for allocation of the H1N1 vaccine." said Giroux.
Shauna Hudson, Medical Health Officer for SUN Country Health Region
said if you have a lab confirmed case of H1N1, you would not require immunization. With many people with suspected cases of H1N1 in the area and few confirmed, many are left wondering if they should vaccinate.
In answer to that concern, Marga Cugnet, Vice President, Primary and Integrated Health, said, "(people who were sick with influenza-like illness) will be advised to still take the vaccination and I will tell you that I myself was home sick and I am pretty sure I had H1N1 and I got the vaccination to ensure in case it wasn't H1N1 to make sure I am protected, but also it can't hurt to boost up your immune system even further."
Number of Cases
In regards to the number of cases in the region, Hudson said because a majority of people will influenza-like illness are not being tested, the numbers are not that accurate. "We have other lab confirmed cases but just reflect the tip of the ice berg." she said. On November 4 the region stated, "No numbers to be released: they are meaningless at this point... most cases are not tested."
With the Provincial Lab in Regina swamped with H1N1 swabs, physicians have been given strict guidelines to follow in order to determine if a test is needed.
Hudson reported that during a six day period at the H1N1 influenza assessment clinic in Estevan, only one person was tested because that's the only person that met the criteria that the province has established for testing.
Up-to-date vaccine clinic information will continue to be posted at www.health.gov.sk.ca.
Emergency Room Use
In a teleconference with local media on November 5, Cugnet talked about the appropriate use of emergency room services in the region.
With the H1N1 virus circulating in our region, health officials are encouraging those with mild and moderate disease to isolate themselves and use self care at home.
Cugnet reported that St Joseph's Hospital in Estevan has been inundated with people with mild disease. The region set up an assessment clinic to divert patients from the er and from doctors offices.
The region reported that there continues to be very little moderate or severe disease in those presenting. Only one person was sent to the emergency room out of all of the people that were seen in the assessment clinic over the six day period.
When can people return to work or school?
As the number of cases begins to decrease in the region, and people move into recovery, the question then arises as to when they should return to work and school.
Hudson said, "Influenza can be contagious for up to 7 days (and sometimes longer in children). Influenza is transmitted in the respiratory secretions (so spread by cough) and on hands (from coughing in to hands, touching nose, etc).
People should remain away from school and work until their symptoms have completely resolved (especially the cough and fever) and they are able to resume all normal activities. If they are still coughing at 7 days - they can return then as the cough in not likely to be infectious.
Many people are finding that their cough, sore throat and fever are completely gone by about 5 days (and they can return then). Schools are excluding children who cough for at least 5 to 7 days.
What to do if you are sick
Healthy individuals experiencing milder symptoms such as cough, fever, or muscle aches, are advised to rest and care for themselves at home.
For individuals experiencing more severe illness, antiviral medications are available to ease symptoms.
"We're suggesting that people with underlying medical conditions who are experiencing flu-like symptoms should call their doctors right away," Dr. Moira McKinnon said. "At the physician's discretion, the patient can be prescribed medication to address the symptoms."
In the meantime, all Saskatchewan residents are urged to continue with infection prevention measures such as frequent washing of hands and staying home if unwell.
If your symptoms worsen or you experience difficulty breathing or serious shortness of breath, it is important to seek medical attention.
As H1N1's second wave continues throughout the province, Saskatchewan's toll-free health information line is hiring additional registered nurses and opening more phone lines to field inquiries about the virus and vaccination program.
HealthLine, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, provides guidance on such topics as how to address flu symptoms, when to call their physician or visit an emergency room, and the locations and times for local H1N1 vaccination clinics.
Cugnet warns people to expect a ten minute wait to speak to registered nurse but that is the preferred choice for all people with mild or moderate illness.