Flu season is approaching and public health nurses across Interior Health are gearing up for the launch of this year’s influenza (flu) vaccination campaign.
Public flu clinics will begin in some communities the week of Oct. 15.
This year, Interior Health is trying to counter what they say is misinformation about flu vaccines.
“There are many myths and misconceptions about the flu shot so it’s important for people to get accurate information to help them stay healthy,” said Dr. Rob Parker, medical health officer with Interior Health. “For example, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. The vaccine used in B.C. contains dead influenza viruses that cannot cause infection.”
Influenza is a highly contagious infection and can be very serious, especially for those with heart, lung and other health problems. In years when influenza is widespread in B.C., hundreds of people may die from influenza or its complications, such as pneumonia.
“The two most important ways to protect yourself from getting the flu are to wash your hands frequently and get your flu shot,” said Parker. “Flu vaccinations are a proven, safe and effective way to reduce your chances of getting the flu. The flu shot also lessens the severity of symptoms for those who do get the flu.”
In B.C. the flu vaccine is free for:
• People 65 years and older and their caregivers and household contacts
• All children between six-months-old and five-years-old
• Household contacts and caregivers of infants up to five-years-old
• Children and adults with chronic health conditions and their household contacts
• Aboriginal people
• Children & adolescents, aged six-months old to 18-years-old, with conditions treated for long periods of time with Aspirin or ASA, and their household contacts
• Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities
• Pregnant women who will be in their third trimester during influenza season and their household contacts (pregnant women who are in other high risk groups can be immunized at any time during the pregnancy)
• People who are very obese (BMI > 40)
• 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 essential community services (First Responders, Corrections Workers)
Inmates of provincial correctional institutions
• People who work with live poultry and/or swine
• Individuals who provide care or service in potential outbreak settings housing high risk persons (e.g., crew on ships)
“Everyone can benefit from a flu shot,” said Parker. “Even if you don’t become severely ill, getting the flu can mean several missed days of school or work and you may pass it on to someone who is at greater risk. The flu shot is anywhere from 60 to 90 per cent effective in preventing influenza and if you don’t get it you can’t spread it.”
People not eligible for the free flu vaccine through the publicly-funded program should contact their physician, local pharmacy, walk-in clinic, travel clinic or private provider.
To find a flu clinic near you, watch for local announcements on dates and times in your community, visit the IHA website at www.interiorhealth.ca (under Your Health > Immunization > 2012 Seasonal Flu Campaign) for a complete listing or contact your local public health office.
Many physicians’ offices and pharmacies also provide vaccines free to those who are eligible.
For more information about influenza, contact your local public health office (look under Interior Health in the blue pages of your phone book) or visit our website at www.interiorhealth.ca.
You can also call HealthLink BC at 811 to speak to a health-care professional.