With a new flu season just around the corner, it’s time to start stocking up again on tissues and hand-sanitizer, but health authorities still caution the number one way to prevent the flu and its complications is the influenza vaccine.
It is safe, effective, and free to many British Columbians – including children, seniors, pregnant women, and those with chronic diseases.
It’s never possible to forecast what a flu season will be like, as they are unpredictable in a number of ways – varying in timing, severity, and length of the season from one year to another, with new viruses appearing at any time.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention say outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May, but the flu season most commonly peaks in North America between December and February.
It recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important protection step.
In addition, frequent hand washing, particularly if you live and work in public places, staying away from sick people, and staying home from work or school, if you are sick, are essential keys to helping prevent the spread of flu to others.
When you get sick, particularly if you’re in a high risk group, in order to get the best treatment results and prevent serious complications you should obtain antiviral drugs within 48 hours.
The same advice is given regarding vaccination, get your flu shot, as soon as the vaccine becomes available and, if possible, before the end of October.
Three kinds of flu viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses.
Vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year and among different age and risk groups, as studies have shown flu virus immunity declines over time and is influenced by several factors including a recipient’s age and general health.
That’s why health authorities recommend annual flu shots for the best protection, even if you received a vaccination in the previous flu season and in the current season the viruses in the vaccine haven’t changed.