Here is yet another reason to get your flu shot: extra protection is offered in this year’s flu vaccine! The flu shot, for most people, will be quadrivalent – meaning four types of flu strains will be included in the vaccine, as opposed to three strains (trivalent) in previous years. This new, quadrivalent vaccine will be available to those from six months up to 64 years of age.
This year, all seniors 65 years of age and older will have the opportunity to receive the special adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine. In the past, this vaccine was only offered to those elders living in long term care facilities. This vaccine yields the best immune response for seniors.
Getting your flu shot is a smart way to not only reduce your chance of getting sick with influenza, but also of passing the virus on to those who are at risk of getting a more serious illness. That includes infants, seniors, and people with chronic disease such as diabetes, asthma or cancer. Protecting yourself protects others.
The flu is a serious infectious disease. Regardless of how healthy you are, it is quite easy to catch and it can bring on serious symptoms – causing you to be bedridden for days, unable to eat and have respiratory problems. For those with weakened immune systems, it can mean hospitalization or even death due to complications.
Some people have reservations about getting the flu shot for fear that it will cause more serious side effects or even the flu itself. However, the vaccine cannot cause the flu and side effects are rare – with the most common side effect being a sore arm for a day or so. This pales in comparison to the serious symptoms the flu brings on.
There are other ways to help prevent the flu as well. These include washing your hands often in warm, soapy water; coughing and sneezing in your sleeve (as opposed to your hands); and cleaning and disinfecting common areas/surfaces frequently. If you do have the misfortune of catching the flu, stay at home to prevent the spread of germs to others.
Did you know the only portal of entry for germs from viruses such as the flu is the T-zone; the mouth, nose and eyes? By avoiding touching these areas, and by washing your hands frequently, you could greatly reduce your chances of catching the flu.
For more information on the flu and its symptoms, visit the department of Health and Social Services website at: www.hss.gov.nt.ca. A good resource for children to learn about hand washing etiquette to help stop the spread of germs, www.henrythehand.com, has a number of fun resources designed to teach children about germs and proper hand washing.
The Health and Social Services website lists the dates and times of flu clinics across the Northwest Territories. There is no charge for the flu shot in the NWT. Remember – get the flu shot, not the flu.
Dr. André Corriveau is the Chief Public Health Officer in the Northwest Territories.