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Flu Vaccine Could Be Life-Saving for High Risk Individuals

October 27, 2017

With flu season nearly upon us, health experts are once again reminding the public of the importance of getting vaccinated. While most individuals who contract the flu will only be mildly sick for a few days, Health Canada estimates that more than 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths occur in Canada each year due to the flu.

This year, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is focusing its main vaccination efforts on individuals who are at high risk for flu complications – a group to which they say “the vaccine could be life-saving.” This high risk group includes:

  • Individuals with underlying medical conditions such as heart and lung diseases;
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems due to disease (like cancer) or medications;
  • Pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum;
  • Children younger than five years old;
  • People 65 years and older;
  • Caregivers or anyone around high risk individuals.

However, it is strongly recommended that all British Columbians get vaccinated, and that no one consider themselves invincible to the flu. The influenza virus can spread before you even know you are unwell, having an incubation period of 1 to 7 days – meaning you may be contagious for up to one week before showing any symptoms. Coughing, sneezing, and face-to-face contact spread the virus.

Each year, scientists research what the most likely influenza virus will be for the upcoming flu season, and develop a vaccine to attack it. Flu vaccines work by causing antibodies to develop in the body that in turn fight off the viral strain in the vaccine, and Immunize B.C. says the vaccine prevents about 60 to 80 per cent of adults and children from getting the flu.

Here are some simple and effective flu prevention tips:

Annual vaccination

Get vaccinated each fall. Doctors recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months be vaccinated, especially those with compromised immune systems including the elderly, those with chronic health conditions, or people with already weakened immune systems.

Frequent hand-washing

Wash your hands with soap and water several times throughout the day to reduce the risk of catching influenza and other infections.

Practice good respiratory hygiene

Cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve while coughing and sneezing rather than using your hands.

Stay home when you’re sick

If you have a fever and/or respiratory infection… stay home. The early stages of influenza are the most infectious.

To find a flu shot clinic near you, visit Immunize BC’s Influenza Clinic Locator.

Media stories on this topic:

CBC News – Vancouver Coastal Health starts its flu shot campaign

News 1130 – BC's top doctor says 2017-18 flu season could be especially bad

Global News – All signs point to a bad flu season: Fraser Health

CBC News – This season's flu shot aimed at those at highest risk of complications

CTV News – Flu shot or nasal spray? Conflicting studies lead to confusion

Global News – Here’s why Canada may be in for a miserable 2017-18 flu season