Northern Health prepares for inFLUenza clinics; at-risk residents urged to get free vaccine

Every year, depending upon the severity, between 400 to 1400 people in BC die from influenza and pneumonia (which can be a serious complication of influenza). Northern Health is urging those residents at risk to get their free vaccine this season.

?Anyone exposed to the flu virus can become infected,? said Minister of Health George Abbott.? You can help prevent getting the flu by getting vaccinated and washing your hands frequently, especially during the winter months when the flu is most common.?

?Influenza is a serious health threat, especially for individuals in high risk categories,? said Dr. David Bowering, Chief Medical Health Officer. ?The good news is that a safe, effective vaccine is readily available and getting it could save your life.?

Those most at risk include the very young, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions. These at-risk individuals can become severely ill, suffer secondary illnesses like pneumonia, or may even die. Healthy younger people who get influenza usually miss a week or more of work or school and may be attacked by other viruses and bacteria before they fully recover.

The flu vaccine is free for those in at-risk categories, which include in part:

· People 65 years of age and older,

· Residents of long-term care facilities,

· People with chronic diseases,

· Children aged 6 to 23 months,

· Health care workers,

· First responders such as police officers, fire-fighters, and ambulance crews.

Starting November 6th, public health nurses in communities across the North will be providing free influenza vaccination for those in at-risk groups. For local clinic dates and times, visit www.northernhealth.ca or call your local health unit.

Various physicians also provide the vaccine to their at-risk patients. In addition, some local pharmacies will be offering flu vaccination to the general public on a charge basis.

Pneumococcal vaccine will also be offered for certain at-risk groups. The pneumococcal vaccine helps to protect against pneumonia that may follow influenza infection, which is the most serious complication of the flu. Most people only need to receive this vaccine once, while the flu vaccine is needed every year due to different emerging strains. People at risk who require the pneumococcal vaccine can get this along with their flu vaccination during the same visit.

Individuals experiencing flu-like symptoms which are unusually severe or last for more than a week should consult with their physician for diagnosis and treatment. For more information on influenza and other health issues, residents can also call the BC NurseLine toll-free at 1-866-215-4700, or TTY at 1-866-889-4700 for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Registered nurses at this line can provide confidential health information and advice, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Translation services are available in 130 languages. See BC HealthGuide OnLine at www.bchealthguide.org for more information and the BC HealthFiles.