With the weather quickly plummeting to colder temperatures, it’s the prime time of year for all kinds of viruses as well as gastrointestinal infections (GI’s) to spread and rear their ugly heads.
“We tend to start seeing more viruses when the weather is making this kind of change,” said Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, a medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services (AHS) in a interview Oct. 3.
Common winter viruses can be broken up into two categories: respiratory and gastrointestinal.
Respiratory viruses that run rampant at this time of year include rhinovirus and influenza.
Seasonal influenza affects Canadians during the winter, typically between November and April, according to alberta.ca/influenza-the-flu.
Respiratory viruses are spread through infected people coughing or sneezing.
To prevent their spread, Dr. Achebe recommends the usual infection control measures of coughing into your sleeve, drinking lots of fluids and staying active, and staying at home if you do become sick to prevent spreading it to others.
A couple examples of GI’s are enterovirus and norovirus. GI symptoms may include vomiting or diarrhea.
GI’s are passed person to person, or through food.
To prevent catching a GI, follow good hygiene practices such as handwashing or the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, says Dr. Achebe.
To prevent the spread, follow the same recommendations for a flu, but also make sure to clean and sanitize items used by an infected person.
AHS launches its influenza campaign in October each year.
Influenza vaccines are recommended for those six months of age and up.
When you receive a flu vaccination you’re also protecting your loved ones and other vulnerable groups such as young children, seniors and those with medical conditions says Dr. Achebe.
Starting on Oct. 21, people aged five and older in Alberta will be able to receive the influenza vaccine at pharmacies free of charge.
Influenza vaccines can also be received through your doctor’s office or at a public health clinic.
The exact times and locations for flu clinics will be available on www.ahs.ca/influenza in the coming days.