‘Typical’ flu season expected
Flu shots available across northern Nova Scotia
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.”