One of the best ways to protect yourself against influenza is a flu shot according to Dr. Rakel Kling, a medical health officer with Interior Health.
“In healthy adults and children the flu shot tends to be about 50-70% effective but even if the flu shot is not a perfect match to the circulating influenza virus it still will help to reduce the severity of influenza if you do get sick.”
Dr. Kling says that influenza which is highly contagious is among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada.
She says although most people do get better from influenza without any serious problems, it sometimes can lead to other more serious complications.
“Such as a bacterial infection including ear infections, a sinus infection, bronchitis, and sometimes it could even lead to pneumonia. Then there are also certain people who are at risk from developing problems from influenza.”
Dr. Kling says this includes young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with long-term illnesses, or people with impaired immune systems that make it hard to fight infections.
She says influenza has very distinct symptoms that are different from the common cold such as fever, headaches, runny nose, sore throat, or cough.
This year’s flu shot offers protection against two influenza A viruses, an H1N1 and H3N2 virus, and one influenza B virus.
Interior Health’s public clinics for those who are eligible for a free flu shot will begin in early November. This includes:
· People 65 years and older and their caregivers/household contacts
· People of any age in residential care facilities
· Children and adults with chronic health conditions and their household contacts
· Children and adolescents (six months to 18 years) with conditions treated for long periods of time with Aspirin (ASA), and their household contacts
· Children and adults who are morbidly obese
· Aboriginal people
· All children six to 59 months of age
· Household contacts and caregivers of infants and children from birth to 59 months of age
· Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy during the influenza season and their household contacts
· Visitors to hospitals, health centres and residential care facilities
· People who work with live poultry
· Health-care and other care providers in facilities and community settings who are capable of transmitting influenza disease to those at high risk of influenza complications
· People who provide care or service in potential outbreak settings housing high-risk persons (e.g., crews on ships)
· People who provide essential community services (first responders, corrections workers)
The flu shot is also available at many doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and walk-in clinics – those who are not eligible for the free vaccine will be required to pay a fee.