Winter and the flu go hand in hand, so organizers of the 2019 Canada Winter Games are prepared.
Scott Robinson, CEO for the 2019 Canada Winter Games Host Society, said organizers know this flu season is serious and plans are in place for potential outbreaks during the event.
“(Outbreaks) do happen when you have that many young people together in the same space. We have contingency plans in place in case there’s a flu outbreak of any magnitude,” Robinson said Friday.
Influenza is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by a virus spread through the air. It is also spread by touching objects that have been coughed or sneezed on by someone with the flu.
H1N1, the predominate flu strain circulating this season, is the variety that caused the pandemic in 2009-2010, and experts say it is targeting children and young people.
He said large outbreaks have not happened at previous winter games, but as part of regular preparations, a full medical team with doctors and nurses will be at Red Deer College, where the athletes village will be located, to deal with any kind of health issue.
Sick athletes will be moved to hotels if it’s a smaller outbreak. There are also contingency plans to move athletes for larger outbreaks, he said.
Dr. Mohammed Mosli, medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services’ central zone, said whether it’s injuries or respiratory tract illnesses, AHS has been working with games organizers on medical preparations.
“We’re looking forward to it. We’re excited about it. But we also want to make sure everyone participating, whether athletes or families, friends, or volunteers, are all safe and protected,” Mosli said.
Wellness promotion is underway in conjunction with the games, and includes advocating the importance of influenza immunization.
“If you get the flu vaccine, it’s the best way to protect yourself and others. It’s an important tool.”
Robinson said athletes across the country will most likely be aware of the availability of influenza immunization to protect themselves.
“They all want to come here and perform. They don’t want to come here and get sick, so they are all going to be taking as many precautions as they can, I would think,” Robinson said.
Volunteer preparations for the games include extra bodies for back up in case some cannot fulfill their volunteer duties due to work schedules, obligations or sickness. Games volunteers and staff will be encouraged to get the flu shot and practice good hygiene.
Robinson also encouraged Red Deerians to get immunized.
“We want everyone to be able to attend the games and be a part of it.”
So far this season, six out of Alberta’s 20 flu deaths were in central Alberta.
A total of 580 central Albertans have tested positive for the flu and 110 people have been admitted to hospital.
Across the province, there have been 4,797 lab-confirmed cases and 1,007 hospitalizations.
— with files from The Canadian Press