Better a needle than a cough

An editorial on why residents should get the flu vaccine this winter.

With the winter season upon us, so is the season for influenza.

Often called by its shortened term, the flu, it is an infection of the upper airway, caused by an influenza virus.

Symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, extreme tiredness, and cough. Children can also experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Infections from other viruses can have similar symptoms, but those caused by influenza tend to be worse.

“To protect ourselves and the people around us that might be even more vulnerable, it’s a good idea to make sure we are immunized, to make sure that when we are sick we stay home, and we make sure that we wash our hands frequently to reduce the risks of transmission of disease.” said Dr. Karman Golmohammadi, a medical health officer at Interior Health.

Golmohammadi said the disease is spread through respiratory droplets, and our hands can potentially transmit those droplets from person to person.

An infected person can spread the virus before they even start feeling sick. Adults can spread the virus from one day before, to five days after symptoms start. Children may be able to spread the virus for a longer period of time.

One way to protect yourself and others from potentially catching the flu is to get the influenza vaccine.

“A flu shot is free for those who are at high risk for disease in British Columbia,” said Golmohammadi. “The high risk people are those who are extreme of age, meaning the young children, and older adults, as well as those who have chronic diseases and illnesses, such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, heart disease, and so forth.”

Golmohammadi does not currently have numbers for the amount of people in Nakusp who have received the vaccine, but said for the interior region, about 60 per cent of people aged 65 and up have received the vaccine last year.

Almost anyone from the age of six months and up can get the vaccine. However, some people are unable to get immunized, such as those who have a compromised immune system.

One myth about influenza is that it’s not a serious illness. This is not true. In years when the virus is widespread in B.C., hundreds of people may die from it, or from complications, like pneumonia. It can also lead to serious illness in seniors over the age of 65, and other high risks groups.

“We know that the severe cases are more common in high risk populations, but sometimes, for not a clear reason, we see middle aged people, that are fairly healthy, that have a severe disease.” said Golmohammadi.

Another myth is getting the vaccine can cause severe reactions. This is not so. Most people who get the flu shot will only have redness, soreness, or swelling where the vaccine was given. Some people, especially if they’ve received the vaccine for the first time, may have a headache, muscle aches, or tiredness.

In the age of the Internet, there is a lot of false information online, but we shouldn’t believe everything we read.

“It is important to make sure that we look into credible sources of information. Those are HealthLink BC, Health Canada, and also the BC Centre for Disease Control. These are centres that are summarizing and sharing the information based on the up-to-date evidence, the scientific evidence that can be backed up with data and robust research,” Golmohammadi concluded.