Immunizations range from flu shots to travel and childhood vaccinations. Effective against viruses as well as bacteria, immunizations protect people against diseases that at one time killed millions. In fact, certain diseases have been effectively prevented by immunization.
Immunization against influenza is recommended for the very old, the very young, people who have chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, and people in long term care facilities. Flu symptoms can be severe; however they may be deadly for those most at risk. It is estimated that about 5,000 Canadians die each year from influenza aggravated disease. Flu shots are also recommended for health care workers and even family members of those at greatest risk to prevent the spread of the disease.
Influenza virus is spread from person to person by droplets expelled from the respiratory tract. Covering coughs and sneezes, not sharing potentially contaminated items such as telephones or tissues, and frequent, thorough hand washing will help curtail the viral spread. One of the reasons for the October to May timing of the flu “season” may be the increased indoor living during winter months which facilitates person to person transmission of the influenza virus.
A flu shot is required each year because the influenza viruses have the ability to change or “drift” genetically from year to year. The vaccine is composed of inactivated virus and/or viral components, and represents scientists’ best guess as to which genetic variety is going to cause the year’s flu outbreak. A flu shot in December or January will still protect you even though the season peaks in February. If you are in any of the high risk groups, get the shot, not the flu.
For more information visit www.immunize.cpha.ca.