A second person in Newfoundland has died as a result of seasonal influenza, according to the provincial health minister.
The death occurred in the western region of the island, involving a person in their 40s. Up to now, the 182 reported laboratory cases of influenza in Newfoundland and Labrador have predominantly involved the H1N1 strain, though it has not been confirmed whether that was the case with this latest death.
Susan Sullivan said the death occurred over the weekend and involved significant underlying conditions. She also confirmed that the first death attributed to influenza this season involved a person in their 50s. That death occurred within the eastern region of Newfoundland.
For the previous flu season, there were nine influenza-related deaths this time last year, according to the province, and 15 for its duration.
Today, influenza clinics across the province will expand services to treat residents between the ages of two and 59 years.
“We are targetting this wider group as this year's dominant influenza strain, H1N1, tends to have a greater impact on healthy adults, so we want to ensure that we are offering coverage to this demographic,” said Sullivan.
After the provincial supply of 130,000 doses of the influenza vaccine vanished thanks to strong uptake, only children under the age of five years and pregnant women were permitted to receive the vaccine.
The province has since secured 80,000 doses of the vaccine, of which 16,000 doses were received this weekend and more are expected to arrive before the end of the week. That vaccine, called FluMist, is administered nasally and is new to the province.
“As this product is being used in this province for the first time, we have ensured that our public health nurses have been fully trained to deliver (the vaccine),” said the health minister.
Sullivan said people with existing health conditions should contact the province's Health Line at 1-888-709-2929 to confirm whether they are qualified to take FluMist.
“It's a different vaccine than we've used before,” noted Eastern Health's medical officer of health Dr. David Allison.
“It provides the same coverages against the same viruses, but because it's a virus that develops its immunity through a minor infection, then we have to watch out for people who might develop a complication because of that, so we just want to make sure people understand that it really is targeted at healthy individuals as opposed to people with underlying conditions.”
When the next vaccine shipment arrives, the health department expects to further expand the target groups.
Of the 182 laboratory cases of influenza reported as of Monday morning, 40 resulted in hospitalizations. There have been 13 cases admitted to intensive care, with three individual still receiving treatment as of Monday morning.
This time last year, there were 408 laboratory cases, 138 hospitalizations and 16 admissions.
“The province continues to see a moderate influenza season, however, people must continue to be mindful and remember the basic rules to reducing exposure or transmission of the influenza virus,” said Sullivan, citing good habits like washing hands regularly and covering coughs.
Information on where vaccination clinics are happening can be found on regional health authority websites or by calling the provincial Health Line.
*This article contains the corrected version of the incorrect phone number which had been provided to The Telegram.