Vancouver, BC – While colder weather and shorter days go hand in hand with wintertime, catching the flu doesn’t have to, according to Vancouver Coastal Health.
“For healthy people, falling sick with the flu means a few days of feeling miserable, but for young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, it can lead to a severe illness that may require treatment in hospital,” says VCH Medical Health Officer Dr. Meena Dawar. “We’re encouraging everyone to get a flu shot so you’re not only protecting yourself, but also the higher-risk people around you.”
Every year across Canada, between 4,000 and 8,000 people die from complications due to the flu and pneumonia, and 90 per cent of those who die are seniors.
“In Canada, influenza causes the most deaths among vaccine-preventable diseases, outpacing all others combined,” says Dr. Dawar. “You can spread the flu for up to 24 hours before you have any symptoms, so you can pass it on before you even know you’re sick. Getting the flu shot is the best way to prevent catching it or passing it on.”
Flu shots are recommended for everyone. They are free in B.C. for pregnant women, all children from six months to five years of age, people 65 years and older, Aboriginal people, and those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems. The vaccine is also free for anyone who lives or works with a person who is at higher risk of problems from the flu.
Children aged two to 17 years of age will have two options – the standard vaccine by needle (flu-shot) or FluMist, the nasal spray vaccine. Both vaccines are effective and parents and caregivers can choose which vaccine to offer their child.
To protect patients in health care facilities, all B.C. health authorities require that doctors, staff, students and volunteers get immunized or wear a mask while at work during the flu season. People planning to visit loved ones in a health care facility or who will take family members to appointments are also eligible for a free flu shot. To further protect patients, unvaccinated visitors to VCH facilities are asked to do the wear a mask, beginning December 1, 2016. Masks will be available at nursing stations and/or outpatient reception desks.
Flu vaccinations are available at special public health flu clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, walk-in clinics and at the VCH Travel Clinic
. Flu clinics throughout the VCH region have already begun; more information can be found on the VCH flu webpage www.vch.ca/flu
. Information on other flu clinics in the community can be found at ImmunizeBC.ca
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.4 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
Tiffany Akins, Communications Leader
Vancouver Coastal Health