With the days getting shorter and the temperatures dropping, the Vancouver Island Health Authority is encouraging Victoria and Esquimalt residents to get their flu shots early this season.
This year’s seasonal vaccine, comprised of three strains of influenza, helps prime your body to develop antibodies and other immune-responding cells to fight infection and reduce the risk of influenza by 40 to 60 per cent, according to Dr. Dee Hoyano, medical health officer for Island Health.
Hoyano said influenza hit the Island hard last season.
Influenza affects the lungs and can cause serious illness, hospitalization and in some cases, death.
According to Island Health, there were 257 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in Victoria and 409 across Vancouver Island between Sept. 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. There were also 26 deaths in hospital, though influenza was not necessarily the cause of death, it may have been a contributing factor.
There are benefits to receiving the flu shot, including having protection from influenza, but Hoyano said it’s the people who are at high risk of complications such as seniors, children and adults with chronic health conditions and children between the age of six months and five years old, who should get their shots.
“We know it’s not a perfect vaccine. Its level of effectiveness certainly isn’t as high as some of the other vaccines that we have, but it’s the best that we have for influenza right now,” she said. “Especially for people at high risk of complications, it is an important thing to do because we know that a hospitalization can be devastating for somebody.”
While the flu season hasn’t officially hit yet, Hoyano said there are signs that the flu has affected people in Victoria and Esquimalt.
She noted it’s too early to predict the severity of the flu season, which generally runs from December into the new year.
Other people at high risk of developing serious complications from influenza include health care workers, emergency responders, pregnant women, corrections officers and inmates, and visitors to healthcare facilities. People working in these fields are eligible to receive the shot for free while residents can get the shot for a small fee.
For more information about flu clinic dates and times visit islandfluclinics.ca.