‘Typ­i­cal’ flu sea­son ex­pected

Flu shots avail­able across north­ern Nova Sco­tia

The Amherst News - - CUMBERLAND COUNTY - BY DAR­RELL COLE dar­[email protected]­st­news.ca Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Nova Sco­tians should ex­pect a typ­i­cal flu sea­son, but that doesn’t mean they should skip their an­nual flu shot.

Dr. Ryan Som­mers, the chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health for north­ern Nova Sco­tia, says there are many ben­e­fits to be­ing vac­ci­nated – and no, you can’t get the flu from the vac­cine.

“No, you can’t get the flu from the vac­ci­na­tions. You’re not get­ting the live virus,” Som­mers said. “You’re get­ting the dead virus chopped up into parts that your im­mune sys­tem will rec­og­nize down the road if you’re ex­posed to it and can fight off the virus.”

Som­mers said get­ting the flu shot is the safest and most ef­fec­tive way of avoid­ing the flu, which is of­ten con­fused with the com­mon cold. The flu is much worse and in­cludes a per­sis­tent cough, fever, aches, pains “and the feel­ing that you’ve just been run over by a bus.”

Nova Sco­tians, in­clud­ing peo­ple in the north­ern part of the prov­ince, have tra­di­tion­ally been very good at tak­ing the vac­cine ev­ery year.

“It’s gen­er­ally be­tween 40 and 45 per cent, which is a pretty good num­ber,” Som­mers said. “There are some places where the num­ber is lower, like in the low 30s or high 20s, but for the most part, peo­ple in this part of the prov­ince are pretty good at get­ting the flu vac­cine.”

The vac­cine is free and ac­ces­si­ble from pri­mary care providers such as doc­tors and nurse prac­ti­tion­ers as well as from most phar­ma­cies. Pub­lic health also holds

sev­eral clin­ics that are aimed at sec­tions of the pop­u­la­tion which are most at risk of de­vel­op­ing com­pli­ca­tions from the flu, in­clud­ing se­niors, chil­dren un­der age five, preg­nant women and those with chronic health con­di­tions such as asthma and di­a­betes.

“The flu has a big im­pact on in­di­vid­u­als, their fam­i­lies and the health-care sys­tem,” he said. “The best way to avoid this stress and strain on our fam­ily and friends and the health sys­tem is to get a flu shot. It is one of the best things you can do to avoid get­ting sick this win­ter.”

If you do hap­pen to get sick, Som­mers said, the best thing to do is stay home for sev­eral days, cough or sneeze into your arm to avoid spread­ing flu germs and to prac­tice safe hy­giene. Peo­ple can al­ways call 811 if un­sure of their con­di­tions and if their fever con­tin­ues or wors­ens, or breath­ing gets more dif­fi­cult, and go­ing to the doc­tor or emergency room is a good idea.

“At the end of the day the most ef­fec­tive thing you can do is wash your hands fre­quently,” he said.

Som­mers said the last two years haven’t been good ones when it came to match­ing the vac­cine with the most vir­u­lent flu strain. He said the two B-strain vac­cines were fine. There were is­sues with the A-strain and that made the vac­cine less ef­fec­tive. The same thing hap­pened about five years ago.

This year, all in­di­ca­tions are it’s go­ing to be quiet.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has iden­ti­fied the most dom­i­nant strain and it’s in­cluded in the flu vac­cine that Cana­di­ans take dur­ing the an­nual vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign that has al­ready be­gun.

“We usu­ally look first to Aus­tralia and the south­ern hemi­sphere be­cause when it’s win­ter there, it’s sum­mer here. That’s where things usu­ally start be­fore mak­ing their way north for our win­ter,” he said. “This year, things were pretty quiet in Aus­tralia and the vac­cine was pretty ef­fec­tive against the pre­dom­i­nant strain. We’re ex­pect­ing that to hap­pen here this win­ter.”

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