Healthy Living in the North

Flu vaccine Q&A

flu, immunization, vaccine, influenza

The flu shot is your best shot against the flu!

Seasonal influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is an infection caused by the influenza virus, which affects the nose, throat and lungs. Other viruses, such as the common cold, can also affect the upper respiratory tract, but, unlike influenza, often do not cause severe and life threatening complications like hospitalizations, pneumonia, bronchitis, and death. Some people are more at-risk for influenza complications, such as people with certain health conditions, young children, pregnant women, and people over the age of 65.

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

Healthy people can get the flu and spread it to others. Even if you do not get sick, you can still spread influenza to those who are more at-risk for complications from the flu virus.

Immunizations are safe, effective, and one of the best ways to help protect you from illness and reduce the spread of infectious diseases to others.

How do flu vaccines work?

The flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after being immunized. These antibodies help your immune system to detect the flu virus and fight it off if you become exposed. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against viruses that research indicates will be the most common during flu season. Typically, flu vaccines protect against three different influenza strains and immunity against those strains lasts approximately six months. If you are exposed to a strain that is not contained in the vaccine, your illness will likely be less severe.

What are the side effects from the flu vaccine?

There are different types of influenza immunizations which cause slightly different side effects:

The flu shot:

  • soreness, redness, or swelling a the injection site
  • low-grade fever
  • aches

The nasal spray:

  • runny nose
  • wheezing
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • muscle aches
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • cough

Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

No. Flu vaccines either contain no flu virus, or viruses that have been inactivated or attenuated (weakened) which means the virus cannot replicate in your system and give you the flu. However, people commonly feel mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, aches, and chills for 24-48 hours after their immunization as their body is developing an immune response. These symptoms are not contagious, are short lived, and mild, especially when compared to symptoms of an actual influenza infection.

Flu vaccines cannot replicate in your system and give you the flu.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

You can contact your local physician, health unit, or pharmacy for more information on the flu and vaccinations. You can also access local clinic information on the B.C. flu clinic locator website. Other resources include HealthLink BC and the Northern Health page on influenza.

Flu season is here. Will you be protected?

Kyrsten Thomson

About Kyrsten Thomson

Based in Terrace, Kyrsten is a public health communications liaison nurse. Her role focuses on promoting immunization awareness and supporting internal and external communications. Kyrsten moved to Terrace seven years ago after graduating with a nursing degree in Ontario. As a student, she knew public health was her passion, especially work in health promotion and community development. She fell in love with the north and all the fantastic outdoor activities right at her fingertips. Since moving to the north, Kyrsten has started a family, taken up hiking, running, and enjoys spending summer days at the cabin.

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What is the flu, anyway?

mother; child; vaccination

Immunizations are safe and effective and are one of the best ways to help protect you from illness and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

As a public health nurse, I have had several years’ experience immunizing and educating the public about influenza and the vaccines used to protect the spread of this persistent virus. I find myself answering the same questions and dispelling the same myths year after year.

It is not uncommon to hear someone tell me how they received the flu vaccine before and it didn’t work. When asked to describe their illness, I hear all about their unfortunate bout with the “stomach flu.” Hours or days spent hugging the toilet and unable to eat a bite. It is unfortunate that the influenza virus is lumped into the same category as the “stomach flu;” better known as gastroenteritis, which is caused by other pesky organisms (though easy to see how this is a point of confusion!).

Influenza is also commonly mistaken for the common cold; similar in that it is also an upper respiratory infection, however, the common cold does not typically last as long as influenza or cause the same serious complications.

So what is seasonal influenza anyway?

Seasonal influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is an infection caused by the influenza virus which affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Other viruses, such as the common cold, can also affect the upper respiratory tract, but, unlike influenza, they often do not cause severe and life threatening complications (such as hospitalizations, pneumonia, bronchitis, and death). Some people are more at-risk for influenza complications, including those with certain health conditions, young children, pregnant women, and people over the age of 65.

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

Healthy people can get sick from the flu and spread it to others. Even if you do not get sick, you can still spread influenza to those who are more at-risk for complications from the flu virus. Immunizations are safe and effective and are one of the best ways to help protect you from illness and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

You can contact your local physician, health unit, or pharmacy for more information on the flu and vaccinations. You can also access local clinic information on the BC flu clinic locator. Other places for more information include HealthLink BC and Northern Health’s influenza information.

Were you aware of the differences between seasonal influenza and the common cold?

Kyrsten Thomson

About Kyrsten Thomson

Based in Terrace, Kyrsten is a public health communications liaison nurse. Her role focuses on promoting immunization awareness and supporting internal and external communications. Kyrsten moved to Terrace seven years ago after graduating with a nursing degree in Ontario. As a student, she knew public health was her passion, especially work in health promotion and community development. She fell in love with the north and all the fantastic outdoor activities right at her fingertips. Since moving to the north, Kyrsten has started a family, taken up hiking, running, and enjoys spending summer days at the cabin.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Immunization is the healthy option

ImmunizationNext week is national immunization week. Immunization can be a hot topic and I can be very opinionated, so, as you’d expect, here is an opinion.

We are not immune to misfortune or disease. Today there are many who oppose immunization on principle or for reasons of fear.

Celebrity has played a large role in this with scaremongering regarding immunization and sometimes well intentioned celebs put out ill-informed information with a great deal of authority, which then becomes part of societal thinking, thereby informing behaviour.

The stakes are high and what is on the table is life itself.

I had a 3-year-old who developed meningococcal meningitis. It’s no laughing matter. We were told he had a 50/50 chance. My wife took the high road and I the low road.

In my mind I was losing a son; she could not even consider such a possibility. We were 24/7 around his bedside in hospital until he pulled through and it was the most stressful thing that has ever happened to me.

Turns out she was right and for that I am forever thankful.

So from experience I am informed of the great need for immunization.

Some of the offenders have been on the planet for millions, or like E. coli, even billions of years. Some we thought were dead are reemerging.

If we look back 200 to 300 years, which in the whole scheme of things is not all that long, we will see many deaths in childhood, from scarlet fever, chicken pox, whooping cough, Polio, diphtheria and measles, not to mention Tuberculosis and others.

In fact, we only need look to the 1918-20s for the famous Spanish influenza outbreak following on the tail end of WWI, which killed an enormous amount of healthy Europeans, to see the need for immunization.

So although I know there is no point in scaremongering regarding these things I can tell you at a personal level the agony of watching a child hang in the balance and praying that the scales tip in his favor.

Be informed about immunization and take the responsibility not to pass influenza, for example, on to a more vulnerable population who might not survive it. Immunization is the healthy option.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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