NEWMARKET – It's almost flu season and once again, flu vaccine is available free of charge to all Ontario residents. York Region Health Services encourages residents to get their flu shots early, before the onset of the flu season.
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is caused by a virus that is easy to catch and easy to spread. The flu season generally runs from mid November to April each year. Flu symptoms include a headache, muscle aches, cough, sore throat, fever, fatigue and weakness. The flu can lead to more serious illnesses which may result in hospitalization or even death.
"Many York Region residents can be affected by influenza, some very seriously." said Dr Karim Kurji, Associate Medical Officer of Health and Director of Public Health Programs. "A flu shot coupled with good health protection practices, like proper and frequent hand washing, can minimize the risk of illness for residents and their families this flu season."
Influenza vaccine has been shown to prevent illness in approximately 70 to 90 percent of healthy children and adults. The flu is much worse than a cold. Even healthy young people can become very sick and develop serious complications.
Influenza viruses are unstable and ever-changing, which means that a new vaccine, updated yearly with the most current circulating strains, is needed to protect against new infections. The recommended vaccine for the 2005-2006 season in Canada contains protection against 3 strains of flu, including the California strain which was a cause for concern in Ontario last year.
Once immunized, immunity lasts less than one year. It is important to be immunized against the current circulating strains of influenza every year.
A particular focus of this year's flu campaign is to encourage the immunization of healthy children aged 6 to 23 months. This age group is at an increased risk of influenza-related hospitalizations compared to healthy older children and young adults. Previously unvaccinated children under the age of 9 years require 2 doses, with an interval of 4 weeks between doses.
The flu vaccine is free of charge to all Ontario residents. Residents can get their flu shot from their physician, participating workplace or at one of the many York Region Health Services community flu clinics.
What else should you know? Influenza is not what is commonly called the "stomach flu" and does not include vomiting and diarrhea, which are caused by different viruses. The vaccine cannot give you the flu because it does not contain any live virus. Also, this vaccine does not protect against avian flu, which is a bird illness circulating in parts of Asia and Europe.
The Flu Shot. Who Needs It? You Do!
For further information about the flu or schedule of community flu clinics, call York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.york.ca
Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson
Health Educator – Media, York Region Health Services
905-830-4444, ext. 4016
The Flu Shot. Who Needs It? You Do!
What is influenza?
Influenza is commonly called the flu. It's a serious respiratory illness caused by a virus that spreads easily through the air from person to person. You can get the flu when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can also get the flu if you touch infected surfaces or objects including unwashed hands, toys, telephones and office equipment covered by the flu virus.
People who get the flu experience headache, muscle aches, cough, sore throat, fever, fatigue and weakness. The flu can lead to other serious illnesses (such as pneumonia) that may result in hospitalization or even death.
Influenza is not what is commonly called the "stomach flu" and does not include vomiting and diarrhea, which are caused by different viruses.
The flu usually lasts for 5 to 10 days, but the cough and weakness can last for as long as 6 weeks. Often, people who get a true case of flu cannot go to work for several days.
How well does influenza vaccine protect against the flu?
Protection from the vaccine develops about one to two weeks after the shot, and may last up to one year. The vaccine is about 70 to 90% effective in preventing influenza infection in healthy children and adults. In the elderly, the vaccine can prevent pneumonia and hospitalization in about 6 out of 10 people, and prevent death in about 8 out of 10 people.
A small number of people who get a flu shot may still get the flu, but not as seriously as if they were unvaccinated.
The viruses that cause the flu change from year to year. Therefore, a new vaccine is made every year. People need to be vaccinated every fall to be protected against the flu.
The flu shot cannot give you the flu. The vaccine does not contain any live virus.
Who should get a flu shot?
Much of the illness caused by the flu can be prevented by annual flu immunization. Anyone who wants to avoid becoming ill with the flu should consider getting immunized.
Health Canada and the Ontario Statement on Influenza Vaccination for the 2005-2006 Season recommend the flu shot for all healthy children and adults every year, and particularly for:
• healthy children aged 6 to 23 months
• pregnant women who are expected to deliver during flu season
• breastfeeding women
• people 65 years of age or over
• people with a serious long term health problem, such as heart, kidney or lung (including asthma) disease
• people with diabetes, cancer, a blood disorder or a weak immune system
• people who live, work or volunteer in a health care or long term care facility, chronic care institution or retirement home
• emergency services workers (paramedic, firefighter or police)
• those who live with a person who is at increased risk of complications from flu
Why should healthy people get the flu vaccine?
Healthy people should get the vaccine to protect themselves and their families from the flu. People who protect themselves will not miss quality time with their families and friends. They will avoid missing work and won't pass the virus to others, especially to babies, the elderly and the chronically ill who could develop severe complications.
The flu is much worse than a cold. Even healthy young people can become very sick and develop serious complications.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
Yes. For the majority of people, there are little or no side effects from the flu shot, and if they occur they are mild. There may be soreness where the shot was given. Some people report a fever and muscle aches within one or two days of vaccination.
The risk of a vaccine causing serious harm is extremely small. Almost all people who get the flu vaccine have no serious reaction. Anyone who experiences a more serious reaction than listed above should call his/her family physician.
The vaccine is considered safe for pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy or who are breastfeeding.
Does the flu vaccine protect against avian flu?
No, there is not yet an effective vaccine to protect humans against avian flu.
Who should not get the flu vaccine?
• Infants under six months of age (the current vaccine is not recommended for this age group)
• Anyone who is ill with a fever
• Anyone with a serious allergy to eggs or egg products
• Anyone allergic to thimerosal, gelatin or neomycin
• Anyone who had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of influenza vaccine
People with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome and/or Oculorespiratory Syndrome should speak with their physician before getting the flu vaccine.
Do residents have to pay for this vaccine?
No, the vaccine is available free of charge for all Ontario residents.
Do you have questions about the flu or the vaccine?
Speak with your doctor or contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or www.york.ca
Where can residents go to be vaccinated against the flu?
Visit your family physician or one of the many York Region Health Services community flu clinics. Also, some workplaces are offering employer-sponsored clinics to their employees.
York Region Health Services Community Flu Clinics make it easy to …
Roll up your sleeve. Get the vaccine. Not the flu.
For further information on our flu clinics contact York Region Health Services
Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www. york.ca