Public health nurse Lisa Halliwell gives a flu shot to Danielle Wonderham while her two-year-old son Evan patiently waits his turn at Thursday’s clinic at Saanich Commonwealth Place. (Dan Ebenal/News Staff)

Island entering the peak of flu season

Island Health says flu shots the best prevention against the virus

Tis the season for coughs and sniffles. That’s why Island Health is urging residents to roll up their sleeves and get their flu shots.

“We know that influenza is responsible for many illnesses every season, and can lead to complications of hospitalizations or even death. That’s why we have a public immunization program every season,” said Dee Hoyano, medical health officer with Island Health.

Recent statistics suggest the flu is responsible for 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths each year in Canada.

Hoyano said it’s especially important for seniors, children under five, pregnant woman and those with serious health conditions to be immunized against influenza.

“The groups that are the most at risk are the ones who may suffer the most serious effects of flu – pneumonia is one of the most common things, but it can also make other conditions worse, like heart conditions,” she said. “There’s quite a long list of conditions – not necessarily things that people would think of as serious health conditions, like asthma for instance. An influenza infection can make them very sick.”

And the worst is still ahead, as Hoyano says peak flu season generally hits toward the end of the year and into early January.

“Right now we’re at levels we expected. We’re not seeing signs that we’re having a lot of early activity, but we definitely expect the amount of flu circulating to go up over the next month. “

Hoyano said close to 250,000 doses of vaccine have been sent out this year by Island Health, which serves a population of about 765,000, but she doesn’t know how many of those doses have been distributed in vaccines.

And even those who have received the vaccine aren’t necessarily protected against the most prevalent strains.

“I wouldn’t call it a shot in the dark. There’s a lot of consideration given to what strains are predicted to be the most likely to be around,” said Hoyano, adding the vaccine must be produced before it is known what strains will be the most common.

While it is still too early to say which strain will be most prevalent this year, Hoyano says the Influenza B strain that is being seen frequently here on the Island is covered in the four-strain vaccination given primarily to children but not the three-strain dose most adults receive.

“It’s too early in the season to say [what the vaccine effectiveness will be]. Last year it was in the range of 30 to 40 per cent reduction in risk,” said Hoyano, adding that the flu shot is just one way to prevent illness.

She also recommends washing your hands frequently, staying home from work when you’re sick and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Hoyano discounts concerns from some (including a recent letter to the editor writer) that the flu shot can be harmful.

“It’s a very safe vaccine. On average, it reduces your risk of illness between 40 and 60 per cent,” she said. “It’s not going to eliminate influenza in our community, but it certainly helps reduce that risk of you getting sick and also passing it on to somebody who might be vulnerable.”

One of the concerns expressed by those opposed to the vaccine is that in contains harmful ingredients, including aluminum.

“I’m not aware of aluminum being in the flu vaccines we’re using this year on the Island,” said Hoyano. “There is sometimes an adjuvant [included in the vaccine] that helps boost the immune response. We’re not using that type of vaccine this year on Vancouver Island.”

She said the goal for the influenza vaccine is different than for childhood immunizations for things like measles and polio, and the fact the influenza virus is constantly changing makes it far more difficult to target.

While it may not be perfect, Hoyano says the flu vaccine is the best method available to protect yourself and those around you from the flu.

“You need to think about your own situation and your own health status for making that decision about getting vaccinated, but also think about people around you who may not be as healthy or may not be able to deal with flu,” she said.

To find a public health flu clinic near you, visit islandfluclinics.ca. For other flu clinics in the area, visit immunizebc.ca and then go to find a clinic.

editor@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Two men attempt robbery at Sooke McDonalds

At approximately 2:50 a.m. Sunday morning, two men wearing masks attempted to… Continue reading

Higher gas tax to help fund transit in Greater Victoria

You’ll be paying an extra two cents per litre at the pump starting April 1, 2018

B.C. BUDGET: Fare freeze, free travel for seniors on BC Ferries

A complete fare freeze will be put into place on major routes, and fares will be rolled back on smaller routes by 15 per cent

‘Where the hell are the environmental monitors?’ says Colquitz activist

McKenzie construction continues to pollute Colquitz

Victoria cannabis advocates call proposed trust fund an ‘overreach’

BCICA says North Saanich councillor’s ideas on cannabis ‘cherry picking’

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

BCHL Today: Merritt peaking at right time and Taylor signs with UNH Wildcats

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Braves shutout Islanders to take Game 1 of playoffs

Braves return to Pearkes Friday night for Game 3

Video: B.C. firefighters featured in quirky video

Oliver Fire Department posts video about their B.C. volunteer firefighter spring training seminar

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Two more medals push Canada into third place

A gold in ski cross and a bronze in bobsleigh as men’s hockey advances to the semis

Trudeau reiterates denial of Sikh separatists in cabinet, condemns extremism

“We will always stand against violent extremism, but we understand that diversity of views is one of the great strengths of Canada.”

Canada wins gold in men’s ski cross

Leman earns redemption with ski cross gold; Homan out early

Trump says more must be done to protect children

In a tweet Tuesday night, Trump indicated he wants to strengthen the background check system, but offered no specifics.

Most Read