Flu clinics ready, at-risk residents urged to get free vaccine

  • Oct. 31, 2008 12:00 p.m.

Submitted by Northern Health–Every year, around 1,400 people in BC die from influenza and pneumonia (a serious complication of influenza). Northern Health is urging residents at risk to get their free influenza vaccine this season.”By getting a flu shot you are protecting yourself from influenza,” said Minister of Healthy Living Mary Polak. “Immunization is another tool that we have to fight the spread of infection and to promote continued good health.”Those most at risk include the very young, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions. These at-risk individuals can become severely ill, suffer secondary illnesses like pneumonia, or may even die. Healthy younger people who get influenza usually miss a week or more of work or school and are vulnerable to other viruses and bacteria before they fully recover.”Influenza is a serious health threat, especially for individuals in at-risk categories, such as the elderly,” said Dr. David Bowering, Chief Medical Health Officer. “A safe, effective vaccine is readily available. It only makes sense to take advantage of this potentially life-saving protection at the onset of winter when we know influenza will be circulating.”The vaccine is free for those in at-risk categories, which include in part: * People 65 and older, * Residents of long-term care facilities,* People with chronic diseases, * Children aged six to 23 months,* Women who are pregnant and in their third trimester during influenza season,* People working directly with live poultry and/or swine* Health care workers,* First responders such as police officers, fire-fighters, and ambulancecrews. Starting November 3, public health nurses across the North will begin to provide free influenza vaccination for those in at-risk groups. For local community clinic dates and times, visit www.northernhealth.ca orcall your local health unit.Careful hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of illness, like influenza. People should wash their hands well for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap – before and after using the washroom and before eating or preparing food.Individuals who do experience flu-like symptoms which are unusually severe or last for more than a week should contact a health professional for diagnosis and treatment. For more information on influenza and other health issues, residents can also call the BC NurseLine toll-free at 1-866-215-4700, or TTY at 1-866-889-4700 for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Registered nurses at this line can provide confidential health information and advice, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Translation services are available in130 languages. See BC HealthGuide OnLine at www.bchealthguide.org for more information and the BC HealthFiles