Flu season is just around the corner; and Interior Health wants to remind people that getting an annual flu shot is the best way to ensure you don’t fall victim to this serious illness, which hospitalizes more than 12,000 across Canada each year, and kills some 3,500 people.
“People often use the word flu to describe any type of mild illness, like a cold,” says medical health officer Dr. Moliehi Khaketla. “The real flu lasts longer than a cold, and usually does not cause diarrhea or vomiting in adults.” Symptoms of the flu can include fever, headache, runny nose, sore throat, or cough.
Khaketla says that influenza is a serious infection of the airways, and can be quite severe. “It is highly contagious, and one of the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada.” The illness spreads when a person comes into contact with droplets from an infected person who coughs or sneezes.
Members of the public who are at the highest risk of getting influenza include seniors, children, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses. The flu shot is a safe and effective way to protect those most at risk, as well as everyone else.
Interior Health is offering flu shot clinics around the region starting on November 1. The flu shot is free for those at risk of complications from influenza, as well as people who come into contact with those at risk, such as health care providers, first responders, and hospital visitors. There will be a flu shot clinic at the Ashcroft community hall on November 1 (9 a.m. until 3 p.m.; open through lunch); at the Clinton Health and Wellness Centre on November 3 (10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.); at St. Bartholomew’s Health Clinic in Lytton on November 8 (9:30 to 11:30 a.m.); at the Spence Bridge Improvement District building on November 8 (1:30 to 2:30 p.m.); and at the Cache Creek community hall on November 9 (9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; open through lunch).
Some people do not get a flu shot because they believe that it can cause the flu. Medical health officer Dr. Sue Pollock says you cannot get the flu as a result of being vaccinated. She says there are two ways of being immunized against the flu.
The flu shot is an inactivated flu vaccine that contains killed viruses,” she says. “The other is a nasal spray that contains an attenuated, or weakened, virus that cannot grow at human body temperature.
“People who receive the flu shot may already be ill, or develop symptoms that may be caused by other viruses circulating in the community.” She notes that it can take up to 14 days after being vaccinated to develop optimum protection. “You can still be susceptible to the flu in that time.”
She adds that each year’s flu vaccine protects against three or four strains of the flu. “People may get flu from another strain that’s not contained in this year’s vaccine.”
The most frequent side effect of getting the flu shot is mild soreness at the injection site. Those who take the nasal spray—which is recommended primarily for those between the ages of two and 17—may develop a stuffy or runny nose.
Anyone not eligible for the free flu vaccine can still go to an Interior Health clinic and pay a small fee. Many pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and walk-in clinics also offer flu shots.