Flu clinics in Prairie Mountain Health set to start in October


By Prairie Mountain Health (Submitted article)

Every year the flu season in Manitoba begins in late fall and it usually lasts until spring. For 2014-15 the flu vaccine is available for free to all Manitobans.

It offers protection against three flu strains, including H1N1. The best way to protect against flu is to get vaccinated. Flu viruses change so last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses. Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) launched its annual flu campaign on Oct. 14; please watch for posters, check your local paper and listen to radio announcements for clinics in your community. These advertisements will inform you of dates and locations within the PMH region.

What is flu and how is it spread?

Flu is not a stomach virus, nor is it the common cold. Flu is a respiratory virus and it is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can also get flu when a person touches a surface with flu virus on it and then touches his or her nose, mouth, or eyes. The flu virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours, on cloth, paper and tissue for up to 12 hours, and on hands for about five minutes!

Flu is very contagious and people can spread the virus before they show any symptoms.  Some people will not have symptoms, but can carry the virus and spread it to others. Flu can lead to serious complications such as bacterial infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and kidney or heart failure.

What is the flu vaccine?

The vaccine is a needle that is given in the arm. For some people, the vaccine can be given a different way, through a spray that is put inside a person’s nose. Every year scientists monitor the global spread of flu and decide what flu viruses will most likely cause widespread illness. Each flu vaccine contains three of these “killed” flu viruses — meaning they can’t harm you or make you sick. The vaccine helps your body recognize these flu viruses so it can protect you.  

Why do I need a shot every year?

Because flu viruses change over time, each year a new flu vaccine has to be developed. That is why it is so important to get a flu shot every year.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

The vaccine is recommended for all Manitobans over six months of age. Some people are at greater risk of serious complications from flu. The vaccine is strongly recommended for the following individuals: children age six months to five years, those with a chronic illness, seniors age 65 years or older, healthy pregnant women, residents of personal care homes or long-term care facilities, health care workers and first responders, individuals of Aboriginal ancestry, and people who are severely overweight or obese. Flu vaccine is also recommended for household contacts or caregivers of these people.

Are there side effects?

Vaccines are known to be very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get the flu.The most common side effect is redness, soreness and swelling where the needle was given. Some people may have chills, fever or fatigue. These side effects should go away in one or two days.

How do I find out more Information about flu?

You can contact your local public health office, nurse practitioner, pharmacy or physician. You can also visit  www.gov.mb.ca/health/flu/index.html.