A health professional in southern Manitoba says flu season has arrived.

Dr. Davinder Singh is Medical Officer of Health for Southern Health. He says based on the increases they have seen over the last month, of positive flu samples across the province, he can say with confidence that the flu season has started. Having said that, Dr. Singh says the case count is still well below the peak of last year's flu season.

The last of the flu shot clinics have now been held in Southern Health. The regional health authority is not yet able to provide statistics on how many shots were administered this year at those clinics. However, Dr. Singh says from what he has been hearing from the Public Health Manager and nurses in the region, the clinics were very busy. 

When you look at provincial numbers, Dr. Singh says 21.3 per cent of Manitobans received their flu shot between September 1st and December 2nd. That is down slightly from the same period in 2022, when 22.2 per cent of the population had received their flu shot. However, Dr. Singh says there is always an administration reporting lag and therefore, this year's numbers are probably equivalent to last year's. 

According to Dr. Singh, by the time the flu season wrapped up last year, 27 per cent of Manitobans had received their shot. He notes the demographic that sees the highest percentage of getting immunized is those aged 65 and over.

Each year, health officials must decide in advance of flu season, what vaccine to administer. Dr. Singh says though it is still too early to know whether this year's vaccine is a good match for the strain of influenza, early indications are suggesting that to be the case. He notes that probably will not be confirmed before January. 

For those who have not yet received their flu shot, Dr. Singh says it is not too late. Though flu shot clinics have wrapped, he notes vaccines are still available through medical clinics and pharmacies. However, he reminds the public that it usually takes a couple of weeks after receiving the shot before a body's immune response has built up to its highest level. 

"So, the earlier that someone does it the better," he stresses.

Meanwhile, Dr. Singh has a few other recommendations for staying healthy this flu season. He encourages people to stay home if they are feeling sick. 

"That's probably the best thing that you can do in terms of helping to prevent spread any infection to other people," he adds. 

Other tips include washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer regularly, especially after contacting commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs or elevator buttons. Dr. Singh says it is also important to cover your cough or sneeze and to consider wearing a mask if the situation makes sense. He adds spending as much time as possible outdoors is also recommended for staying healthy at this time of year.

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