Vancouver, BC – A new flu season is upon us, and Vancouver Coastal Health is reminding people vaccines continue to be the best way for people to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Flu shots are now available at Vancouver Coastal Health Public Health clinics, your doctor's office, walk-in clinics and pharmacies. To find a flu clinic near you, visit the ImmunizeBC website at immunizebc.ca.
"Every year, approximately 3,500 people die from the flu in Canada and the vast majority are usually seniors," said Vancouver Coastal Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Emily Newhouse.
2018 marks the 100TH anniversary of the 1918 influenza pandemic that infected 500 million people worldwide and resulted in the death of 50 – 100 million people globally. Commonly known as the Spanish Flu, the pandemic decimated three to five per cent of the world's population, making it one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in human history.
The centenary of the Spanish flu reminds us how far we have come with vaccines that protect individuals and help stop the spread, but the flu season continues to be a serious health threat each year.
"History has shown us how quickly the influenza virus can spread. By getting your shot you are not only protecting yourself, but also the people around you who may not be able to protect themselves," said Dr. Newhouse.
Flu shots are recommended for everyone six months of age and older. They are available free of cost in B.C. to those at increased risk of complications and death from influenza, including all children between six months and five years old, seniors 65 years old and older, people of any age in long-term care facilities, Indigenous people, those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems, and anyone who visits a health care facility is eligible for a free vaccine. Pregnant women are also eligible for free vaccine.
"When the flu shot is given during pregnancy, it has been shown to protect both the mother and her developing baby from serious flu-related complications," said Dr. Newhouse. "These antibodies help to protect the baby from the flu in the infant's first six months of life. Pregnant women are more prone to developing severe illness from flu due to changes in the heart, lungs and immune system during pregnancy. A pregnant woman who gets the flu also gets sicker than others, and has a greater chance of premature labour and delivery."
Fluzone® HD (High Dose) is an influenza vaccine recommended by Vancouver Coastal Health Medical Health Officers for those 65 years and older, as it provides significantly better protection against the flu than standard vaccines in this age group. While this vaccine is not publicly funded in BC, it is available for purchase at the VCH Travel Clinic and at select pharmacies. For those 65 years and older who choose not to purchase the high dose vaccine, publicly funded flu vaccines are recommended.
Influenza virus causes infection of the upper airway, and can lead to symptoms of fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and cough. Complications from influenza, such as pneumonia, are more common in the elderly and those with heart, lung or other health conditions. Influenza is easily spread from person to person, and an infected person can spread the virus before they are even sick with symptoms.
For more information, including clinic listings, visit www.vch.ca/flu.