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Spread joy, not germs: stay healthy this holiday season

December 10, 2015

EDMONTON – 'Tis the season of celebratory gatherings, and – unfortunately – the spread of seasonal illnesses and influenza. To help ensure the holiday season is a happy and healthy one, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Health are encouraging all Albertans to protect their health and get immunized against influenza.

“You may be healthy now, but keep in mind: good health isn’t contagious. Influenza is. To protect your health, you need to get immunized,” says Dr. Gerry Predy, AHS' Senior Medical Officer of Health. “Given we’re seeing sporadic cases of influenza across the province, Albertans need to get immunized to protect themselves and their friends and family.”

As of December 5, there have been 66 individual cases of influenza confirmed in Alberta, including 19 hospitalized cases.

More than 956,347 doses of influenza vaccine have been administered to Albertans this season, as of December 5. While this is a good start, thousands of Albertans remain without protection.

“I’m happy many Albertans have already chosen to protect themselves against influenza before our province gets hit with an outbreak,” said Dr. Martin Lavoie, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, Government of Alberta. “But I’m concerned that many more have not yet chosen to get the vaccine. Influenza is a virus that we have to take seriously. I encourage all Albertans to get immunized to protect themselves and those most at risk.”

Influenza vaccine continues to be offered to all Albertans (six months of age and older), free of charge. For more information, including local clinic schedules, Albertans can visit www.ahs.ca/influenza or call Health Link at 811. Influenza immunization is also available through pharmacists and physician offices around the province.

In addition to getting immunized, there are a number of steps Albertans can take to help prevent the spread of not-so-joyful germs and illness this holiday season says Dr. Predy, including getting adequate rest and eating a balanced diet to support your immune system.

“You can also prevent the spread of infection by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. If you don't have a tissue, always cough or sneeze into your arm, not into your hands,” adds Dr. Predy. “Also wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water after coughing, sneezing, using tissues or the washroom, and before eating or preparing foods.”

Using an alcohol-based hand rub or sanitizer can also be helpful if hands are not visibly soiled, and make a point of keeping hands and fingers away from your eyes, nose and mouth. If you are sick, do not prepare food for anyone, until fully recovered, and when you are cooking, always keep safe food handling practices top of mind.

It’s also important to keep household surfaces clean, using a household cleaner, and to stay home if you’re experiencing illness.

“Chances are your family and friends don’t want influenza or other illnesses any more than you do,” says Dr. Predy. “If you’re sick, stay home from work, school, daycare, or any social function. Please also do not visit family, friends or loved ones in hospitals, care facilities or seniors lodges until you’ve fully recovered.”

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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For media inquiries, contact:
Tahneen Luedee
AHS Communications
780-613-8823 / 587-920-4561 (cell)

Carolyn Ziegler
AH Communications
780-415-2496