by Susan Healey, Leeds Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit – submitted October 21, 2013
(LEEDS-GRENVILLE) Influenza is a preventable illness that can be very dangerous to some individuals. Because influenza is extremely contagious and is capable of spreading rapidly from person to person, it is important for individuals to follow these steps to protect themselves as well as others in the community: Get a flu shot, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, keep frequently touched hard surfaces clean and disinfected, cover your cough, and stay home when you are sick.
Flu vaccine provides adults and children with active immunity against the influenza virus. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit recommends annual immunization against influenza for any persons over 6 months of age. There is a new flu vaccine produced each year to protect against the three strains of influenza most commonly circulating during the flu season. Pregnant women are recommended to receive the influenza vaccine. Children who are over the age of 6 months and under the age of nine and are getting the flu shot for the first time should get a second dose one month later. There are some people for whom the flu shot is not recommended, please check with the Health Unit for more information on this.
Vulnerable populations in the community include very young children, pregnant women, people over 65, and adults and children with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, respiratory, cardiac, kidney disease or cancer. These individuals are at greater risks for serious complications from the flu. The flu shot is the safest way to protect yourself and your family and friends from the influenza virus. The vaccine protects about 70 percent of people who get a flu shot. However, the protection rate in seniors is less, as their immune systems are weaker. You may still get the flu even though you received your flu shot but being vaccinated will help to reduce the severity of your symptoms.
You cannot get the flu from receiving a flu shot. The flu vaccine does not contain live virus and thus is incapable of giving you the flu. Most people have no reaction to having a flu vaccine while some report having tenderness at the injection site for a few days. After receiving a flu shot some people may experience a mild fever, feeling tired, or having muscle aches and this is considered a normal reaction to having a vaccination. It is not the flu.
HOW CAN YOU GET THE INFLUENZA VACCINE?
Getting immunized against influenza is easy, convenient, and free. See your health care provider or attend one of the flu clinics in your area. There are 15 community clinics being held this year from October 28th to December 17th . Most area communities will have one flu clinic with three communities having two clinics. For more information about the flu and for a listing of free flu shot community clinics, contact the Health Unit at 1-800-660-5853 or 613-345-5685 or visit our web site at http://www.healthunit.org. If it is not convenient for you to get your flu shot from your health care provider or the health unit clinics, call your local pharmacy for times and date they are providing vaccinations. Please note that you will need to bring your health card for flu shots at pharmacies. Check out the list of participating pharmacies at http://www.healthunit.org. Pharmacies cannot give vaccinations to persons under 5 years of age.