Flu vaccine your first line of defence
Like wearing a seatbelt when you drive, getting the flu vaccine is your best line of defence against the virus, says Marianne Rock, manager of communicable disease prevention and control with the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit
“The virus changes every year. Getting this year’s shot gives you the best protection,” said Rock in response to emailed questions last week.
If the vaccine is a good match to the flu strain, it can prevent more than half of the cases of flu in adults and children. This year’s trivalent vaccine protects against two influenza A strains, Rock said, H1N1 and H3N2 and a B strain, Victoria. The quadrivalent vaccine also protects against a B strain called Yamagata.
“So far, this season influenza A is the most common influenza virus circulating in Canada, and the majority of these viruses are the H1N1 strain, which means that if a person got their flu shot then they would be protected from getting sick with the H1N1 strain,” she said. “It’s still too early in the flu season to be 100 per cent sure that the vaccine is a good match for the other circulating strains.”
Symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, cough, runny eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, weakness and tiredness, lack of appetite, and sometimes diarrhea or vomiting, although the Ontario government website on the flu says the latter two are more often associated with children. It takes between one and four days for symptoms to appear after being exposed.
Otherwise healthy people recover in between seven to 10 days.
So, if you are an otherwise healthy person, why get the shot?
“Even very healthy people can get sick and quite ill with the flu and spread it to others,” Rock said.
And not everyone you pass it to might be able to fight it off as easily as you do. The Ontario government says complications from the flu can lead to pneumonia or heart attacks and the flu accounts for some 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada annually.
Groups at higher risk of complications and hospitalization include babies under six months old; children under five; people over 65; pregnant women; and those with underlying health conditions such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
Rock recommends adopting other best practices.
“In addition to getting your flu shot, the health unit also recommends you: wash your hands thoroughly and often; sneeze and cough into your sleeves; stay home from work and school if sick; and keep your body’s immune system strong by eating well, getting enough sleep, and being physically active on a regular basis,” she said.
Anyone older than five can go to a pharmacy to get a flu shot. It’s free, but you need to bring your health card.
“The influenza vaccine, like any medicine, can cause side effects, which in most cases are mild, lasting only a few days,” Rock said. “Life-threatening allergic (anaphylactic) reactions are very rare.”
For families with children younger than five, the health unit can offer free flu shots. To book an appointment, call the health unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1507.
Pharmacists Offering Flu Shots
in Haliburton County
The following pharmacies in Haliburton County have been approved to provide flu shots for the 2018/2019 influenza season.
Pharmacists can provide flu vaccine to individuals five years of age and older. Please check with the pharmacy as to vaccine availability and for specific information:
• Shoppers Drug Mart, 186 Highland St., Haliburton Village, (705) 457-5020
• Loblaw Pharmacy (Independent Grocers), 5121 County Road 21, Haliburton Village, (705) 455-9779
• Haliburton Highland Pharmacy, 211 Highland St., Haliburton Village, (705) 457-9669
• Rexall, 224 Highland St., Haliburton Village, (705) 457-1112
• Minden Pharmasave, 110 Bobcaygeon Rd., Minden, (705) 286-1220
• Highland Remedy’s Rx Pharmacy, 33 Bobcaygeon Rd., Minden, (705) 286-1563.
• Wilberforce Pharmacy, 2165 Loop Rd., Wilberforce, (705) 448-1222
- Credit: HKPR Health Unit