Alberta’s annual influenza immunization program is underway.
Offering immunization free of charge to all Albertans six months of age and older, Alberta’s program makes both injectible (flu shot) and nasal spray (FluMist) vaccine available at hundreds of Alberta Health Services (AHS) clinics, pharmacists and physician offices around the province.
Because it takes about two weeks after immunization to be fully protected, AHS is encouraging all Albertans to get it before they need it.
“Influenza arrives every year. The good news is, influenza vaccines get here first,” says Dr. Digby Horne, medical officer of health with the Central Zone of AHS. “This year, we strongly encourage Albertans to take advantage and get immunized before influenza arrives.”
Influenza is the single most effective means of protection against the strains of influenza virus expected to circulate this season, officials say. Because those strains change from season to season, Albertans are reminded they cannot rely on having been immunized in previous years.
“It’s pretty simple: to be protected this season, you need to be immunized this season. Without immunization, you are at risk,” said Dr. Horne.
Last season, more that 1,200 Albertans were hospitalized – and 30 died – due to influenza. Thousands more suffered from the illness and put those around them at risk of contracting influenza as well.
“Albertans should think of influenza immunization as their armor against an invading enemy,” says Horne. “Be battle ready: arm yourself against influenza by getting immunized before it arrives.”
At the Golden Circle, a clinic runs Nov. 4th from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
At the Red Deer Curling Centre, clinics runs Nov. 10th from 9:30 to 4 p.m. There is also one scheduled for Nov. 24th from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The First Christian Reformed Church is also hosting several clinics – Nov. 8th and Nov. 22nd from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.
The Red Deer iHotel has clinics running Oct. 23rd, Nov. 5th, Nov. 12th-13th, Nov. 19th-20th from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m.
And finally, several clinics are set to run at Westerner Park as well – Oct. 25th from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Oct. 28th-30th from 12:30 to 7 p.m.
All clinics are run on a drop-in basis.
According to AHS, influenza (flu) is a viral infection.
The flu causes a fever, body aches, a headache, a dry cough, and a sore or dry throat. The symptoms usually are the worst for the first three or four days. But it can take one to two weeks to get completely better.
It usually takes one to four days to get symptoms of the flu after you have been around someone who has the virus.
Most people get better without problems. But sometimes the flu can lead to a bacterial infection such as an ear infection, a sinus infection or bronchitis. In rare cases, the flu may cause a more serious problem such as pneumonia.
The vaccine is especially important for people who are at higher risk of problems from the flu, including adults age 65 and older; adults and children who have long-term health problems or an impaired immune system; children six to 59 months of age; women who will be pregnant during the flu season; children who are 24 months to 18 years old who use long-term Aspirin treatment; people who are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more; people who live in nursing homes or long-term care centres and First Nations peoples.
The flu vaccine is also important for health care workers, anyone who lives or works with a person who is at higher risk of problems from the flu and people who provide essential community services.
For more information, Albertans can visit www.albertahealthservices.ca/influenza or call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465.