Flu season is on the way and the Interior Health Authority is gearing up to help protect people who are most at risk from influenza and its complications.
Influenza is a significant illness that, at minimum, can make people quite sick for several days. People with influenza can also spread the virus to others who are at greater risk. For those with heart, lung, and other health problems, influenza can cause severe complications and even death. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that every year about 3,500 Canadians die from influenza complications.
“Influenza reduces the body’s ability to fight illnesses and infections and it can also increase a person’s risk for developing other serious conditions, including viral or bacterial pneumonia,” says Dr. Rob Parker, medical health officer.
“Getting a flu shot and washing your hands frequently are the two most effective ways to protect yourself and others from influenza.”
Influenza is often confused with less severe viruses that cause common colds or stomach flu (vomiting and diarrhea). There are no vaccines for these milder viruses. The influenza vaccine provides protection from the influenza virus strains expected to be circulating in the coming flu season based on flu trends worldwide. This year’s vaccine contains three different flu strains including the H1N1 strain which was the predominant strain last year.
According to IHA, the flu shot is safe, effective, and free for those at risk of complications from influenza and those in contact with people at risk. This includes:
People 65 years and older and their caregivers/household contacts
People in residential care facilities
Those with chronic health conditions and their household contacts
Children and adolescents (6 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
All children 6-59 months of age and their household contacts/caregivers
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
Care providers in facilities and community settings who are capable of transmitting influenza disease to those at high risk of influenza complications
Individuals who provide care or service in potential outbreak settings housing high risk persons
People who provide essential community services (first responders, corrections workers)
Free public clinics take place at the Schubert Centre from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 6, 20 and Dec. 4, and from 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 8.
The Vernon Health Centre’s Family Flu Clinics are offered by appointment only on Nov. 13, 28 and Dec. 11. For more information, call the Flu Line at 250-549-6306.
Flu shots are also available at most pharmacies.