Every year in Canada, about 22,500 people are hospitalized and 3,500 people die from influenza or its complications.
Interior Health says you can help yourself and those around you stay healthy, prevent illness and potentially save lives in one easy step – by getting your annual flu shot.
While there is ongoing public debate about the merits of getting a flu shot, Interior Health comes down firmly on the benefit of a flu shot being a safe and effective way to help protect the public, especially children, pregnant women, seniors, people with chronic illnesses, and others who are most at risk from influenza and its complications.
“Influenza, which people often call the flu, is often incorrectly assumed to be any illness caused by a virus. It is sometimes confused with the common cold,” said Dr. Moliehi Khaketla, Interior health medical health officer.
“However, influenza is a serious infection of the airways and can be quite severe. It is highly contagious, and is among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada.”
Influenza spreads when a person comes into contact with droplets from an infected person who coughs or sneezes. Symptoms can include fever, headache, runny nose, sore throat, or cough.
“The best ways to help protect yourself and those around you from influenza are to get immunized, wash your hands frequently, and to cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. If you are sick, stay home, and keep sick children away from daycares and schools,” said Dr. Khaketla.
The flu shot provides protection from the influenza virus strains expected to be circulating this season based on worldwide trends identified by the World Health Organization.
This year’s flu shot offers protection against two influenza A viruses (an H1N1 and an H3N2 virus) and one influenza B virus. For those under 18, the preferred vaccine also protects against an additional B influenza virus.
The flu shot is free for those at risk of complications from influenza and those in contact with people at risk. Those people facing the most risk include:
· 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
· People who provide essential community services (first responders, corrections workers)
Interior Health holds public clinics for those who are eligible for the free flu shot. Public clinics will start in some communities beginning Nov. 1.
Many doctor’s offices, pharmacies and walk-in clinics are also providing flu shots. Those who are not eligible for the free vaccine will be required to pay a fee.
To find an influenza immunization clinic or provider near you, watch for local announcements on dates and times in your community, contact your local public health centre, or visit the Influenza Clinic Locator (http://immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu) on the ImmunizeBC website.
Interior Health also reminds the public that visitors are required to have had a flu shot or wear a mask when visiting patients in Interior Health or its contracted facilities during the influenza season. By following this policy, you will help to protect the people you are visiting from getting a potentially serious illness.
For more information, visit our website at www.interiorhealth.ca.