Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dr. Vivien Suttorp talks about influenza

South Zone Medical Officer of  Health Dr. Vivien Suttorp
T. Lucas photo
Toni Lucas

"This is our annual influenza season," said South Zone Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vivien Suttorp who was in Pincher Creek for the flu clinic offered October 24 at the Pincher Creek Town Hall. "We try to offer influenza vaccine in early to mid October so people can get immunized before we have influenza circulating. It takes about two weeks to get your immunity to influenza after your vaccination." The vaccinations are being offered free of charge to Albertans aged 6 months or older through Alberta Health. Last year there was an early peak to the season in mid December when typically it is at the end of  January or early in February. "It's hard to predict when you are going to have a peak. Pincher Creek is one of the first communities in Alberta that I am aware of that has had circulation of influenza A already. We are trying to encourage individuals that if you get your immunization you will be better able to manage if you become exposed. There is no vaccine that is 100%." What vaccination does do is offer protection in you do come into contact with the flu, if you still become ill hopefully it is less severe, with less duration, and reduce the spread of the disease.

"We provide influenza vaccine every year, because the virus is very smart, and it adapts and changes every year." Dr. Suttorp expressed concern that there is already circulation of influenza in Pincher Creek. "It's influenza A H3N2 that's already been here, and it impacts seniors more than kids."

Dr. Suttorp said that there are four vaccines that are available. One is a flu mist, a nasal spray for children 2 - 17 years of age and the other three are shots. "They all contain the same components, the same influenza strains that are predicted to be circulated." Dr. Suttorp explained that all if the vaccines are designed to give some protection against influenza A H3N2, A H1N1, and influenza B, designed based on World Health Organization predictions. "Last year, that prediction was 99% accurate." Dr. Suttorp clarified, "There are different strains circulating. You may get flu several times in one season."

Public health is the only providers of influenza vaccine for children 6 months to 8 years of age, while those of other ages can get immunized at these clinics, health care clinics, Dr. offices and pharmacies.*  "We are trying to increase access to make sure there is access to as many people who want the vaccine."

Dr. Suttorp said that Southern Alberta has many more outbreaks of childhood vaccine-preventable outbreaks than anywhere else in the province. "We have some communities here with the lowest immunization rates in Alberta, thus we have outbreaks," she said, mentioning whooping cough, measles, and mumps.

"I really enjoy and appreciate seeing how this community embraces this. The public health is there, Town Hall supports it, the physicians, the pharmacists, even the seniors homes. They have all taken it on as a project of importance. This community embraces this, and we see that in Pincher Creek. Everybody has ownership and plays a part in public health. Immunization rates are great in Pincher Creek."

Free clinics are being held all over Alberta.  You can visit to see when they are being held in your area.

Clinics in our area:

Pincher Creek
Pincher Creek Town Hall, 962 St. John Avenue Pincher Creek
Thursday Oct. 30, 2014 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Wednesday Nov. 05, 2014 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Thursday Dec. 04, 2014 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Crowsnest Pass
Blairmore Community Health, 12501 20 Avenue Blairmore
Wednesday Dec. 03, 2014 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Blairmore, Crowsnest Pass Provincial Building, 12501 20 Avenue Blairmore
Monday Nov. 03, 2014 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Fort Macleod
Fort Macleod Community Hall, 301 25 Street Fort Macleod
Tuesday Oct. 28, 2014 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Fort Macleod Community Health, 744 26 Street Fort Macleod
Tuesday Dec. 09, 2014 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

*Corrected for accuracy

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