The Northern Inter Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) is providing an update on this year’s flu season.

NITHA Medical Health Officer Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka told MBC Radio News that last flu season the northern health authority did not see any confirmed cases of influenza in their communities. He added this year they have already confirmed nine cases of influenza.

“As of November 15, we have reported nine lab confirmed cases, one was severe enough to have been hospitalized, while the remaining were non severe,” he said.

The medical health officer said they are looking to remind people about the importance of getting vaccinated for the seasonal flu and making sure their COVID-19 vaccinations are up to date. Ndubuka said this year they are seeing less people coming out to get their flu shots, explaining that around this time last year they had over four thousand people who had gotten their flu vaccines.

“About 2,042 doses of the flu vaccine have been administered to residents within their communities and this represents fifty per cent less compared to what was administered the same time last year,” he said.

Overall Ndubuka said the lower uptake is something which the health authority finds to be concerning, especially as COVID-19 is still an issue. NITHA’s medical health officer said they are working to try to improve uptake in their communities by utilizing social media and local media to raise awareness. Ndubuka said the health authority has also worked to ensure their is a healthy supply of vaccines on hand in communities and added they want people to know they shouldn’t have any concerns in regards to getting multiple shots at a time.

“We’ve also ensured that they are aware that it is very safe to receive both the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, their should be no safety concerns around that,” he said.

Looking back on why influenza cases were so low over the past few years, Ndubuka agrees that masking and social distancing may have played a role in helping to keep cases low. He added with the COVID-19 pandemic not over it is important for people to take personal steps to help protect themselves besides getting their shots.

“We know that the things that have worked previously especially around the use of personal protective measures, such as wearing masks and physical distancing will continue to have value in limiting the impact of not just the flu season, but also the COVID-19 virus,” he said.