Health Minister Terry Lake gets his annual flu shot

Flu season may be early this year

Cases already showing up for seasonal illness that kills thousands of people in Canada every year, influenza vaccine available

It’s a good year to get a shot of influenza vaccine early, says Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall.

“We’re already starting to see some influenza activity around the province, which suggests that this flu season may be coming earlier than past flu seasons,” Kendall said this week.

Kendall joined Health Minister Terry Lake and other MLAs who rolled up their sleeves to receive their annual flu shots at the B.C. legislature.

Lake said flu vaccination is on the upswing in B.C., with last year setting a record for doses of vaccine administered. That includes 76 per cent of health care workers, who are now required to get vaccinated or wear a mask in patient care areas during the winter flu season.

Contrary to popular misconceptions about “stomach flu” or “24-hour flu,” influenza is a severe respiratory disorder caused by a group of viruses that circulate globally.

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that 3,500 people per year die of complications from influenza, particularly seniors and people with underlying conditions such as asthma. There are more flu-related fatalities than from all other vaccine-prevented diseases combined.

Flu shots can be obtained from doctors’ offices, pharmacies and public health facilities. To find the nearest flu shot clinic, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or visit the influenza clinic finder at the ImmunizeBC website.

Flu shots are free in B.C. for all children between six months and five years of age, seniors 65 and over, pregnant women, aboriginal people, anyone with a chronic health condition or compromised immune system and those who live with or plan to visit a person with high risk of complications.