NEW GLASGOW – Not many things in life are free… except the flu shot that is.
Robin Taylor, medical officer of health for the Pictou County Health Authority, is encouraging everyone over the age of six months to protect themselves from influenza this year by getting immunized early.
“The sooner you get it, the sooner you are protected,” she said. “It’s available now.”
The flu vaccine has been delivered to doctors’ offices and will be offered in workplace and public health clinics. The vaccine contains the 2009 H1N1 strain, an influenza A known as H3N2 and an influenza B component.
Taylor said the flu strain changes each year so researchers work to determine which strain may be be dominant. H1N1 is certainly not at the level it was two years ago, she said, but it could circulate again this year.
“Influenza in general kills between 4,000 and 8,000 people in Canada each year,” she said. “Whatever strain it is, it’s still worrisome, particularly for the young, elderly or people with chronic diseases such as diabetes or asthma. It’s very important for the word to be out that the vaccines are available.”
Certain risk groups are especially encouraged to receive the influenza vaccine. These include:
– people older than 65
– residents of long-term and other chronic care facilities
– adults and children with chronic health conditions
– children and adolescents (age six months to 18 years) with conditions treated for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid
– adults and children with any condition that can compromise respiratory function or increase the risk of aspiration
– children between six months and five years of age
– pregnant women
– people who live with, or care for, someone in one of the above groups
– health care students and workers
– first responders such as firefighters and police
– Aboriginal peoples
– those with morbid obesity
– people living in a home where a newborn is expected during the regular influenza season.
Flu symptoms often include a sudden high fever, headache, general aches and pains, fatigue and weakness, a runny, stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat. Flu activity is low right now and researchers expect it will begin in December.
Proper hygiene, such as hand washing and covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, are also important to prevent the spread of influenza and many other infections. People with flu symptoms should stay home and minimize close contact with others.
Taylor said it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to build up to full protection within someone’s system and children under nine years of age and getting the flu shot of the first time will have to have get two shots.
“Children under nine years who have never had a flu shot before will get their first shot and then get a card with date on it for their second shot,” she said. “We don’t want people to wait and schedule the first shot in December and then have the second one when the flu season is already here.”
Taylor said people should check with their family doctors or public health officials if they have any concerns about the shot, but there is one myth in particular she can rule out.
“You can’t get the flu from the flu shot,” she said. “Some people do get viruses or a cold and often label it as the flu, but it is not caused by the flu shot. It’s a very safe vaccine and we have enough doses for anyone who wants one.”
During the 2010-11 influenza season, about 38 per cent of Nova Scotians received the flu vaccine.
For more information on the flu, visit www.gov.ns.ca/flu .
In addition to being available at the offices of family physicians, the Pictou County Health Authority is holding flu immunization clinics at the following locations:
Oct. 25 from noon – 6p.m. at the Museum of Industry in Stellarton
Oct. 27 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Salvation Army Hall, Westville
Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Summer Street Industries, New Glasgow
Nov. 3 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Maritime Odd Fellows Home, Pictou
Nov. 8 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Plymouth Fire Hall
Nov. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at First United Church Hall, TrentonNov. 16 from noon to 6 p.m. at Summer Street Industries, New Glasgow