The annual influenza immunization campaign got underway across Vancouver Island on Monday and will continue in the coming weeks. This is a good time to consider how we can best protect ourselves and our loved ones from influenza.
Getting immunized helps us stay healthy, and protects those we live with and come in close contact with from getting sick. In B.C., flu shots are free for anyone considered at high risk of developing influenza complications and those who care for them or live with them. This includes:
• People over age 65 and their caregivers.
• Children and adults with chronic health conditions and their household contacts.
• Health-care workers.
• Emergency responders.
• Healthy children aged six months to 59 months.
• Household contacts and caregivers of children up to 59 months.
• Pregnant women who will be in their third trimester during the influenza season.
• Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities.
• Aboriginal peoples.
• People who are overweight with a body mass index of 40 or greater.
People who are at high risk can suffer severe complications or even death from influenza. The most common complication, particularly for elderly people, is pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. Influenza can also lead to other complications for people who have heart, lung or other health conditions.
Even if you are a healthy adult, if you have regular contact with anyone in these high-risk groups, you can help protect them by getting immunized. Influenza is easily transmitted from person to person, even when no symptoms are yet present. This is why it’s important to prevent infection in the first place by immunization.
This year in B.C., healthcare workers will be either immunized or wear a mask during patient interactions during flu season to protect vulnerable patients from influenza. I am proud that we are the first jurisdiction in the country to be taking this important step to ensure our patients are protected.
You can also take this simple step to protect yourself, your loved ones and your co-workers. Get immunized! You can be immunized at many doctor’s offices and local pharmacies.
To find a public health clinic near you, please visit www.viha.caflu, or call your local health unit.
Dr. Paul Hasselback
Medical Health Officer,
Vancouver Island Health Authority