Influenza season has arrived, and Durham Region Health Department is reminding area residents to protect themselves and others by getting their annual influenza vaccine, also known as the flu shot.
“The best way you can stop influenza is by getting the influenza vaccine every year,” said Brandi Pigou, a public health nurse with the Health Department. “The influenza vaccine is safe and protects you from the influenza virus which causes a contagious respiratory illness. The vaccine is also free and recommended for everyone six-months and older.”
Individuals who have influenza may experience serious complications including pneumonia, dehydration, ear infections and, in rare cases, death. For most individuals, the flu will last between seven to 10 days with symptoms such as muscle aches, chills, loss of appetite, sore throat, fever, headache and/or fatigue. Each year in Ontario, the flu is responsible for approximately 4,750 hospitalizations and 1,365 deaths, with the highest mortality rate occurring in adults 65 and older.
“Many people use the word ‘flu’ to describe the common cold, but influenza is a serious illness,” explained Ms. Pigou. “Getting sick with the flu can be very severe for children, older adults, people with chronic health conditions and pregnant women. By getting the flu shot each year you protect yourself as well as those around you, including our community’s most vulnerable populations.”
Everyone six-months and older is eligible to receive the influenza vaccine; after receiving the vaccine, it takes about two weeks to develop protection against influenza. This season, the influenza vaccine is available at more than 400 locations across Durham Region including local health care providers, such as family doctors, nurse practitioners, walk-in clinics and pharmacies. Pharmacies can provide the vaccine to anyone over five-years old. Adults 65 and older can only receive the high-dose influenza vaccine from a doctor or walk-in clinic, as pharmacies do not carry stock of the high-dose vaccine. Additionally, there is no nasal vaccine available in Canada for this year.
Ontario residents who do not have OHIP coverage are encouraged to call Durham Health Connection Line at 905-666-6241 or 1-800-841-2729. For more information about influenza or the influenza vaccine, visit durham.ca/flu.