Healthy Living in the North

National Immunization Awareness Week

Group of nurses wearing I Boost Immunity T-shirts.

Northern Health staff in Fort St. John boost immunity – how about you? During National Immunization Awareness Week, think about how you might boost immunity!

In Canada, National Immunization Awareness Week (NIAW) is held annually in late April. NIAW is an opportunity to focus the attention of Canadians on the importance of vaccinations for all ages and to prompt citizens to ensure that immunizations are up-to-date for themselves and their loved ones.

Evidence clearly indicates that immunizations are the safest and most effective way to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases. Thanks to immunization programs across Canada, vaccine-preventable diseases now cause less than 5% of all deaths across the country. Over 100 years ago, these diseases were the leading cause of death worldwide. One does not have to look far into our history to uncover the devastation that vaccine-preventable diseases posed to the health and lives of Canadians.

Although we have come a long way in fighting infectious diseases, they continue to pose a significant threat to our health. You may recall recent outbreaks such as measles in southern Ontario and Quebec as well as pertussis in northwest B.C. So far, 140 cases of measles have been reported in 2015 in southern Ontario and Quebec and over 275 cases of pertussis have been reported in northern B.C. since January 2014.

Immunization protects individuals and communities by preventing the spread of disease. Those who are not vaccinated against common infectious diseases such as measles, chicken pox, influenza, pertussis, and human papillomavirus not only put their own health at risk, they also put the health of their family, friends and community at risk. As more people are immunized, the disease risk for everyone is reduced.

In the spirit of NIAW, British Columbians can join the I Boost Immunity campaign to help raise awareness about the value of immunization. I Boost Immunity is an advocacy platform based on the experiences of real families and individuals around B.C. who support vaccination. This initiative uses the power of social media to reach large audiences. There are many articles and stories readily available on this site which will help you to become an active supporter for immunization in your community. The more you participate, the more points you earn to cash in for prizes. Visit iboostimmunity.ca to sign up.

Immunization is the single most cost-effective health investment that has saved more lives in Canada in the past 50 years than any other health intervention. Talk to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or local public health unit about staying up-to-date with immunizations.

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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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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