Flu clinics across the Interior Health region have begun. Getting a flu shot is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from the flu and its complications. Seniors, infants under five and people with chronic illness are most at risk of serious illness or complications that can result from the flu.
“Many people incorrectly use the term flu to refer to any illness caused by a virus, such as the stomach flu or the common cold. However, the influenza virus causes illness that tends to be more severe than other viruses,” said Dr. Rob Parker, Medical Health Officer with Interior Health. “Influenza is an infection of the upper airway. A person with influenza is at risk of other infections, including viral or bacterial pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs.”
Influenza is the leading cause of preventable death due to infectious disease in Canada, killing thousands of Canadians every year and hospitalizing thousands more. Influenza (the flu) spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, face-to-face contact and by touching surfaces such as door knobs and telephones that have been contaminated with the virus.
“People can spread the influenza virus before they show any symptoms at all,” said Dr. Parker. “That’s why it is very important to wash your hands throughout the day – especially after sneezing, or coughing as well as before and after visiting daycares, hospitals or health-care facilities. And, if you are feeling sick, stay home to avoid exposing others to the virus.”
The flu shot is a safe, effective way to reduce the chances of getting and spreading influenza. Those who are not eligible for the free clinics can still get a flu shot. Check with your pharmacist or doctor to find out about getting vaccinated.
Flu shots are available at free flu clinics for:
• People 65 years and older and their caregivers/household contacts
• All children age 6 to 59 months of age
• Household contacts and caregivers of infants age 0 to 59 months of age
• Children and adults with chronic health conditions and their household contacts
• Aboriginal people
• Children and adolescents (six months to 18 years) with conditions treated for long periods of time with Aspirin(r) 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).
To find a flu clinic near you, look for the ad in the Times, visit www.interiorhealth.ca or call your local public health office (look under Interior Health in the blue pages of your phone book for your local health unit). Information is also available at www.immunizebc.ca.