Prairie North Health Region has launched its annual influenza vaccination program.
Immunization clinics organized by the health region are scheduled across Prairie North throughout October and November, and in limited locations in early December and January. Flu shots are also available through physician offices.
This year's influenza vaccine is available to everyone free of charge.
"Everyone is encouraged to get a flu shot," said Dr. Brenda Cholin, PNHR Medical Health Officer.
"We are especially encouraging people at high risk of serious illness or complications from influenza to be immunized," Cholin added.
These high risk groups are: adults age 65 years and over; persons with a chronic health condition; pregnant women; children from six months to four years of age (under five); persons with severe obesity; residents of a nursing home or other care facility; household and close contacts of persons listed as high risk; household and close contacts of infants less than six months of age; members of a household expecting a newborn before March 2011; child and daycare workers who provide care to children up to four years of age (under five); community health and care providers; persons who work with poultry or hogs; health region employees and volunteers; and health science students
This year's influenza season is expected to be a more typical flu year. However, after last year's H1N1 pandemic, this year's seasonal influenza vaccine includes protection against H1N1.
"It is likely that H1N1 will be one of the main strains of influenza this season," Cholin explained.
"Vaccination is still recommended to people who received the H1N1 vaccine last year to ensure full protection for this flu season. Immunization is most important for people with underlying health conditions," Cholin stressed.
Cholin reminds the public that the purpose of the immunizations is to help lesson the impact of influenza on residents, families, friends, and communities.
The flu season usually lasts from November through March but could occur before or after this time. October and November are considered the optimum months during which to receive the flu shot since immunization received from the vaccine lasts four to six months.
"Vaccination of people, especially those at high risk of developing serious illness or complications from the flu, is the single most effective way to reduce the impact of influenza," Cholin states.
In addition to getting the flu shot, Saskatchewan residents can further protect themselves against seasonal influenza by practising personal prevention and self-care measures including frequent and through hand washing using proper hand washing techniques; using alcohol-based hand sanitizers if washing your hands with warm water and soap is not possible; coughing or sneezing into your sleeve or using tissues once only; staying home if you are ill; and cleaning surfaces often.
Flu clinics are extensively advertised in local newspapers throughout Prairie North Health Region. A complete listing of all influenza immunization clinics in Prairie North is available on the Health Region's website at www.pnrha.ca and on Prairie North's Influenza Immunization line at 1-877-833-4161.
The schedules can also be accessed through www.newsoptimist.ca. Look for the links tab.