With so many health issues being highlighted in the media recently it can be hard to put them all into perspective. The most recent Ebola case count now stands at over 20,000 with nearly 8000 deaths. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Measles and even a Mumps outbreak among NHL players have captivated media attention. But what should Canadians really be concerned with?

Influenza remains the leading worldwide cause of infectious disease mortality and death. Influenza is primarily a respiratory illness resulting in fever, headache and cough. Illnesses can result in hospitalization and death mainly among high-risk groups (the very young, elderly or chronically ill). Worldwide, these annual epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths. In Canada we generally see up to 8000 hospitalizations and 300-350 deaths due to influenza in a typical flu year.

This flu year Canadian laboratory detections of influenza have increased sharply for the fifth consecutive week. The majority of cases continue to be reported in Alberta, Ontario and Québec; but with increasing activity in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. To date, the National Microbiology Laboratory has found that the majority of influenza specimens are not optimally matched to the vaccine strain, which may result in reduced vaccine effectiveness against the A(H3N2) influenza virus and making this a big flu year.

What can you do to protect yourself?

The most effective way to prevent the disease and/or severe outcomes from the illness is vaccination. Safe and effective vaccines are available and have been used for more than 60 years. Among healthy adults, influenza vaccine can provide reasonable protection. However among the elderly, influenza vaccine may be less effective in preventing illness but may reduce severity of disease and incidence of complications and deaths. Hand washing and avoiding contact with others who are ill are also effective measures to prevent influenza.

What is Gevity doing about influenza?

Gevity resources have many years of experience in activities that help prevent and track influenza outbreaks. Foremost is of course our involvement in Panorama’s immunization, inventory and investigations modules’ design and ongoing improvements. Canadian and international implementations are using these features in the battle against influenza. Through Gevity partnerships with IBM and Capita we are leading the way, providing innovative solutions that will allow for the distribution of antiviral drugs used to decrease severe influenza symptoms and prevent deaths. The result will be a decrease in the need for doctor visits, fewer hospitalizations and ultimately fewer influenza deaths. This is a concrete example of our Gevity goal to support healthier lives through interconnected systems.