Like it or not, the cold weather brings with it the influenza – “flu” – season and health authorities are urging British Columbians to be prepared.
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) recently warned that high-risk individuals such as people with heart and lung disease or those with weakened immune systems should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Since it takes about two weeks for the influenza vaccine to induce protection, now is the time for high-risk individuals and their close contacts to get vaccinated, if they haven’t already,” said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, influenza lead at the BCCDC, in a Dec. 13 news release.
This year, the H1N1 type of influenza A has been circulating, whereas last year and the year before it was H3N2 type of influenza A, which most affected the elderly.
Both types cause sufferers to experience fever, cough, fatigue and aches. Children who come down with the flu might also experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
H1N1 tends to affect children and non-elderly adults and people in those groups who have underlying medical conditions and who will be gathering with friends and family for the holiday period should especially get vaccinated.
Vaccinations protect against both types, including influenza B.
As well as vaccination, other ways to reduce the risk of flu are to wash your hands often, especially if you’ve been out in public; avoid touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth; if you sneeze or cough do so into your elbow and throw out tissues if you use them; stay home if you don’t feel well to avoid passing infections onto other people; and if you are in close contact with those who are higher risk of complications from the flu, get vaccinated and don’t visit them if you don’t feel well.
The 2018/2019 vaccines contain the strains A/Michigan, A/Singapore, B/Colorado and B/Phuket and will be available throughout Christmas and into the spring, Rakel Kling, medical health officer with Northern Health told Lakes District News.
“There are a lot of people who qualify for free flu shots. Anyone over 65 and anyone under 2,” Kling said. “And anybody who is a resident of a long-term care home, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions.”
And for high-risk people – seniors and those with chronic medical issues – the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is available.
Pneumococcal disease, which includes ear and sinus infections and even pneumonia is among the most common flu complications.
This vaccine is usually given only once along with a one-time booster for high-risk individuals.
Burns Lake pharmacies and the Lakes District Hospital and Health Centre provide flu vaccines.