Hard to believe but flu season is already upon us. In fact, Calgary is a bit of a hot spot already for influenza activity in the province. I spoke with Medical Officer of Health Dr. Judy Macdonald who tells me for the month of September there have already been 18 lab confirmed cases in Calgary, 37 in the entire province.
But the good news is the public immunization clinics open in Calgary in just over a week an a half on Monday October 24th. And yes, the vaccine is still the best way to protect yourself from this serious illness. However, this year, there may be some confusion about what vaccine delivery method is best for the kids. This flu season, the United States has decided to move away from the nasal spray vaccine, saying it doesn’t work. But here in Canada, officials are sticking with the nasal spray. Dr. Macdonald says the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Canada has reviewed the relevant data, including recent Canadian data which the Americans may not have considered, and says the nasal spray is still effective and safe. So this year in Calgary, when parents take their children to get immunized they will be offered both the nasal spray for children or the shot. The only difference is the nasal spray will not be touted as the preferred method to deliver the vaccine. Both options will be presented as equal.
Dr. Macdonald is encouraging everyone 6 months of age and older to get immunized against influenza. She reminds us that the flu is not a simple cold, it’s a serious infectious disease. Last year, there were 1600 lab confirmed cases of influenza, 62 of those people died. Influenza comes on suddenly with fever, runny nose and cough as well as debilitating body aches, fatigue and fever. These symptoms can last for weeks. Those people most at risk of developing complications from the flu include pregnant women, children under the age of 5, seniors and those with chronic illnesses or who are immune compromised. But the flu can be very difficult even for healthy people. Dr. Macdonald says the vaccine is free for everyone in the province. People can get the vaccine at one of the public health clinics across the province, some pharmacies and doctor’s offices will also be offering it.