Interior Health is advising people at risk to get their annual flu shot.
“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, 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.”
Interior Health advises that the flu shot is 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.
According to stats provided by IH, about 12,200 people are hospitalized and 3,500 people die from influenza or its complications.
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. 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 (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.
Contact your local public health centre, or visit the Influenza Clinic Locator on the ImmunizeBC website to find out where you can arrange for a flu shot.
In Penticton, clinics that are offering the flu shot for a fee include Knights Pharmacy, Shoppers Drug Mart, Riverside Pharmasave, Safeway Pharmacy and DRUGStore Pharmacy (Wholesale Club).
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.
For more information, visit www.interiorhealth.ca.