It’s that time of year again, winter is just a few weeks away and Canadians are bracing themselves for shorter days, colder temperatures and snow. It also, however, means the arrival of influenza season. It is literally the worst Holiday gift ever, the virus sweeps across the province filling emergency rooms and infecting thousands. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 1,000 who get sick will die, mostly the elderly and those prone to related conditions like pneumonia.
At the Stoney Creek Medical Arts Centre, Dr. Michael Savatteri is already seeing patients who are suffering with all the typical symptoms: a tickle in the back of the throat, coughing, sneezing and a runny nose – all of which are accompanied by body aches. The virus spreads through person-to-person contact and breathing contaminated air.
Public Health Ontario confirms that over 200 cases of influenza have already been diagnosed this season and that number is expected to rise exponentially as the winter months draw near.
“These germs are picked up in the air or by touch as they land on surfaces”, said Dr. Savatteri. “Then, often by touching our own nose and mouth, we ingest them into our airways and before you know it, after a few days, we pick up all the horrible and annoying symptoms of the flu.”
According to Dr. Savatteri, once the virus is ingested into the body, “We have to sit back and just sweat it out.” As we all know, staying home from school or work once you start to see these symptoms is recommended.
The flu shot, is the best way to prevent the flu. However, less than half of Canadians take advantage of this simple preventative measure.
The flu shot contains inactive parts of the influenza virus that are broken down and injected into a human host, so that the immune system can recognize the virus, and then fight the virus if the individual is exposed.
Dr. Savatteri admits that health scientists struggle each year to accurately predict which strains of the influenza virus will be the most predominant. It’s an educated guess, but that’s an important one, because it determines how the vaccine is formulated. The goal is to make the vaccination formula match the strains of the influenza virus that presents the greatest risk for the population.
Some individuals are skeptical about getting a flu shot, because they believe that it will make them sick, which Dr. Savatteri says is a “myth”.
“The flu shot only prevents influenza – there is no flu in the flu shot! What actually happens is that it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to actually kick in, so you can still get the regular flu in the meantime,” said Dr. Savatteri. “This is also a reason why I urge patients to get immunized early.”
Your health is in your own hands this flu season. The flu shot though, isn’t just for you. it’s also for those who are too sick or immune-deprived to get it. Protecting yourself also helps protect them
The Public Health Agency of Canada says everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot each year. The agency’s website indicates one of the best ways to prevent getting the flu is to wash your hands frequently and not to touch your face, particularly during flu season, which typically runs from November to April.
Beginning Monday, October 24, the seasonal influenza vaccine will be available to the public. The vaccine is free from your primary healthcare provider, participating pharmacies and walk-in clinics. People who work, live or study in Ontario are eligible to receive the flu vaccine each year. If you have any questions regarding the flu vaccine or influenza season, it is encouraged you ask your professional healthcare provider.
If you are a Brock University student with an OHIP card, you can receive your flu shot at Campus Pharmacy on a walk-in basis, Monday to Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
International students can go to Niagara Public Health for their flu shot and all students can receive their flu shots on an appointment basis at Student Health Services.
-Loredana Del Bello, Assistant News Editor