It’s that time of year again when certain members of the public are encouraged to roll up their sleeves and get a shot in the arm to avoid getting the seasonal flu.
The annual flu campaign started October 12 at the Parksville Health Unit with the city’s acting Mayor Chris Burger bravely volunteering to get poked as media cameras snapped away. Burger put on a brave face as he was immunized against three flu strains which are currently on the radar of Health Canada.
Doctor Paul Hasselback, the Central Island’s new Medical Health Officer said this year’s vaccine will protect against A/California H1N1, A/Perth H3N2 and B/Brisbane. He said these three strains are the ones circulating globally and while the levels of the disease are currently low and there is no pandemic, it doesn’t mean the public should be complacent and not get their flu shot.
“Disease activity is monitored globally at all times and levels are less than typical but it doesn’t take much for it to change and come back with a vengeance,” he admitted.
Hasselback, who has been at his new post for one month, said during the surge of H1N1 in 2009 when he was the Public Health Officer in the Interior of B.C. the disease resulted in the death of people who were in frail health and it is those members of the population who should be first to get the vaccine.
He said if we didn’t have vaccines in Canada, more than 4,000 people would die from the flu each year.
“It is our largest cause of death from bugs that are out there,” he said.
Hasselback admitted they are able to keep a good handle on flu outbreaks because people are dedicated and understand the importance of getting their flu shot once a year.
He said when people get vaccinated they help protect others as well by reducing the spread of the virus.
Influenza spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or having face-to-face contact. The virus can also spread when a person touches tiny droplets from a cough or sneeze and then touches their eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands. Hasselback said that is why hand washing is also important in reducing the spread of the illness.
He said typical symptoms of H1N1 include fever, aches and pains and a cough.
“People describe it as getting whacked,” he stated and added that while some people bounce back in a few days others are not so lucky and suffer for weeks.
He said they expect to give 180,000 doses on Vancouver Island and there is no fear of running short of the vaccine.
“We have more than we need at this time and there is a contingency plan in place if we exceed the demand.”
In B.C. the influenza vaccine is provided for free to people at high risk of serious illness from the virus.
Visit www.vihal.ca/flu to find out if you are eligible for a free flu shot or call the Flu Hotline at 250-947-8222, ext. 39170.
If you are eligible for a free flu shot you should bring your care card to one of the following local Flu Clinics: October 17 and 31 at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and October 24 and November 7 at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Family Flu Clinic is by appointment only and is held Wednesday afternoons until December 22 at the Parksville Health Unit.
It is for healthy children six to 23 months old, household contacts and childcare providers of children 0 to 23 months, and children six months to 18 years with certain chronic health conditions and their household contacts.
Call 250-947-8222 for an appointment.