It’s time for our annual flu shot

It’s time for our annual flu shot

Half the individuals hit last year by influenza A, the common virus, were over 70

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen
Hon. Kelvin Goertzen

Colder weather is just around the corner, and that means the start of influenza season. Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by viruses that infect your nose, throat and lungs. Not everyone who gets the flu develops symptoms, but you can still spread the virus to others around you, especially when you cough or sneeze. If you do get symptoms, they’ll usually appear suddenly and can include a cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, joint pain and exhaustion.

It's safer to get the vaccine than to come down with influenza.
It’s safer to get the vaccine than to come down with influenza.

Influenza can lead to serious illness or other complications, especially if you’re an older adult. In 2014-15, older adults were the age group most affected by seasonal influenza. Fifty-four per cent of all reported influenza A cases, the most common strain of the illness in humans, occurred in adults over age 70. The highest number of cases and the highest influenza infection rate in that group occurred among adults over the age of 80.

There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and others from getting the flu. Cover your cough or sneeze, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Getting the influenza vaccine every year is the best way to protect yourself from the flu and spreading it to others. Because the seasonal influenza virus changes from year to year, it is important to get your vaccine annually.

The sooner you are vaccinated, the better

While the vaccine sometimes causes mild discomfort in some people, like a sore arm, a headache or a feeling of tiredness, it is rare and usually lasts only a few days.

Thousands of Canadians get the influenza vaccine every year. Influenza season lasts from late fall to spring. Because the vaccine takes about two weeks to be effective, it’s best to get vaccinated as early as you can.

The vaccine is free for all Manitobans six months of age and older; healthy children between two and 17 years of age have the option of getting a needle-free vaccine called FluMist Quadrivalent.

Will the vaccine give you influenza? No, you can’t get influenza from the vaccine. It’s also much safer to get the vaccine than to get influenza. Health Canada approves all vaccines based on a review for quality and safety.

Influenza symptoms: what to do

  • If you have influenza, stay at home to limit contact with others.
  • If your symptoms get worse, visit your doctor.
  • If you are having trouble breathing, call 911.

Pneumococcal vaccine also recommended

Seniors over 65 years of age are more at risk of developing pneumococcal infection. Because of the higher risk, Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living recommends this group receive a pneumococcal vaccine to help prevent pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis. If you are over 65 and have never been vaccinated for pneumococcal infection, the vaccine is free, and you can get it when you come for your influenza vaccine. Unlike the influenza vaccine, most adults only need one pneumococcal vaccine in their lifetime.

For more information: To get your flu vaccine, visit your local public health office, nursing station, doctor’s office, pharmacy, QuickCare Clinic or ACCESS Centre. For more information on influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, talk to your health care provider, or call Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 in Winnipeg, or toll free 1-888-315-9257 elsewhere in Manitoba. You’ll also find resources to help you better understand influenza on Manitoba’s seasonal influenza website at http://www.manitoba.ca/health/flu/.

Hon. Kelvin Goertzen is minister of health, seniors and active living.

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