Flu season is on the way and Interior Health is gearing up to protect children, pregnant women, seniors, people with chronic illnesses, and others who are most at risk from influenza (flu) 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,” IHA Medical Health Officer Dr. Rob Parker said in a statement issued Monday, October 20. “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 that was the predominant strain last year.
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 of any age in residential care facilities;
- Children and adults 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;
- Aboriginal people;
- All children 6-59 months of age;
- Household contacts and caregivers of infants and children 0-59 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;
- Individuals who provide care or service in potential outbreak settings housing high-risk persons; and
- People who provide essential community services (first responders, corrections workers).
Public clinics will start in some locations in the Interior Health region the week of October 27. The clinics here in Revelstoke are at the Seniors Centre and Queen Victoria Hospital. To find a free public flu clinic near you, watch for local announcements on dates and times in your community, contact your local public health centre, call HealthLink at 811 or visit the Influenza Clinic Locator on the ImmunizeBC website (http://immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu).
People not eligible for the free flu vaccine through the public program can get a flu shot for a fee at physician’s offices, local pharmacies, walk-in clinics, travel clinics, and other private providers. ImmunizeBC’s Influenza Clinic Locator also contains information on private providers.
For more information, contact your local public health centre or visit our website at www.interiorhealth.ca.