What you need to know this flu season
Dr. Vivien Brown
Why you and everyone around you needs to be protected.
The flu vaccine does not prevent every episode of influenza BUT, it can help reduce the severity of the symptoms and prevent flu-related complications. Influenza and its complications such as pneumonia is the 6th leading cause of death in Canada and often a life-ending episode for a vulnerable person.
But why bother in the first place if you are in good health and not at high risk?
Immunization against influenza has been shown to reduce the number of deaths and hospitalizations, especially in high-risk populations such as children between 6 to 59 months, people 65 years or older, pregnant women, and those who suffer from chronic health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney diseases, etc.
It takes a community to fight the flu.
To further reduce mortality and morbidity due to the flu, it is also important for those who are capable of transmitting the flu to high-risk individuals such as healthcare providers and individuals providing direct care to children and elderly to receive the flu vaccine. A phenomenon known as the “herd immunity” explains why it is crucial for everyone, not just those individuals mentioned above, to get vaccinated. Essentially, when a certain percentage of a population is vaccinated, there is little chance for an influenza outbreak to occur. That means by being vaccinated, you are protecting not only yourself but also the people around you: your children and your grandchildren, your elderly relatives, your co-workers, your staff. Even individuals who are not eligible to get the vaccine will be protected because the disease is less likely to spread.
The flu season in Canada generally begins in late fall and lasts throughout the winter months. Most people with the flu typically get symptoms such as sore throat, high fever, cough, chills, muscle ache, and occasionally diarrhea, nausea and vomiting can also occur. This is a different picture than just an upper respiratory infection. Fever and muscle aches are significant. Most healthy individuals will recover in 7-10 days. However, for those with weaker immune systems such as young children, elderly, and those who are immune compromised, catching the flu can lead to more severe complications.
How does the flu shot work?
The flu shot can be given to anyone over 6 months of age. It is deemed safe, has very little side effects and it is recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The vaccine stimulates your body to produce antibodies, which can help protect against the strains of viruses that are in the vaccine. In Canada, there are many choices of vaccine, both inactivated influenza vaccines and live attenuated influenza vaccines. And different populations may have a better response to a certain kind of influenza vaccine.
For example, in those 65 years of age or older, the Fluzone High-dose influenza vaccine is routinely given as older people need a stronger stimulus to mount an immunologic response. FluMist Quadrivalent offered by Medisys in clinics and through corporate onsite flu programs is a live attenuated vaccine often administered to the younger population, as a nasal spray and is immediately in the nasal passages. However, live attenuated vaccines, such as FluMist are contraindicated for pregnant women, individuals with severe asthma, and immune compromised individuals. Which vaccine is the best choice for you? Talk to your Medisys doctor as there are differences and you want the best option. It is not one size fits all!