It’s getting colder — snow has already flown in some parts of Alberta — and with cold weather comes the flu.
The Alberta government has announced its influenza immunization program will begin Oct. 15. Every year the free shot is meant to minimize the effects of the flu.
Pharmacist/associate owner Peter Lok of Shopper’s Drug Mart said all that’s needed is an Alberta health care number to get the shot. “Influenza is one of the most contagious viruses.”
There is a misconception that the common cold and influenza are the same but they are in fact different. “Basically getting the vaccine prevents the chance of getting hospitalizations and prevents a lot of complications. More importantly it builds up the community immunity,” explained Lok.
An individual might be healthy, however they also might be a carrier of the virus and could spread it to others, he explained. The vaccine is prepared as an inactivated virus, which means a person should not get sick by the shot, but it takes two weeks before a person has the antibodies.
“The influenza virus itself would cause a few different symptoms, you’ve got the fever, sore throat, chills, muscle aches. Those are the more common symptoms that you might not see with the common cold,” he explained.
Common cold symptoms can be congestion, a runny nose, and a cough or sore throat.
Those who are at risk of complications from the flu are people over 65 years old with chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
According to Alberta Health Services, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can take the shot with the inactivated virus. If a person is allergic to eggs they should consult their physician as there may be traces of egg in the vaccine.
The shot lasts approximately six months and since the virus changes every year, Lok advises getting a shot each season. He also feels it is best for people to wash their hands often and to try and cough into your sleeve.
Lok is scheduling shots for anyone over nine years old. There are also two flu clinics at the Kinsmen Community Centre: Oct. 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Nov. 22, 12 to 6 p.m.