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Residents reminded to get their flu shot

The season for annual influenza immunization began on October 31. Flu shots clinics are running in Assiniboia during the month of November.

The season for annual influenza immunization began on October 31. Flu shots clinics are running in Assiniboia during the month of November. Phar­macists are also providing flu shots at the Shoppers Drug Mart and Southland Co-op food store pharmacy in Assiniboia.

The Five Hills Health Region recommends that residents in the area protect themselves from flu by get­ting immunized against the influenza virus.

“The obvious reason to get immunized to pro­tect those at greatest risk from developing serious disease,” said Dr. Mark Vooght, Medical Health Officer for the Five Hills Health Region. He spoke about the 2016 influenza season and how residents of the Health Region can protect themselves from getting sick.

The flu shot is recom­mended for those who are at high risk. This group includes pregnant women, young children, those with chronic diseases, those with conditions like asthma, diabetes, cancer and immunorenal condi­tions. Vooght also notes that those who care for these groups, such as doc­tors, nurses, home care staff and family members, should also get the flu shot. He noted that the latest scientific discovery shows that the entire community is protected when at least some of its members have had the flu shot.

Immunizations begin in late-October and early-November because it takes about two weeks for the flu shot to take effect. The flu season usually begins about mid-December.

This year, the vaccine carries four influenza anti­gens with both A and B types. The immunization is effective for six months. The nature of flu virus means that an annual shot is needed.

The flu is a tricky virus, Vooght explained. It can even change and adapt during the flu season. The virus genetically changes its structure and content all of the time causing residents to be susceptible every year.

For scientists studying the flu, it is always a bit of a guessing game to know how to make the vaccine. Really, they only know at the end of the season how effective the vaccine has been that year. Still, Vooght said that the immunization can help residents, even if the vaccine is not a precise match. It can prevent more serious illness and hospi­talization.

Vooght also recom­mended that those working with animals, especially poultry or hogs, should get the flu shot. There are concerns that the flexible nature of the virus mean that bird flu and swine flu can mix with the human flu virus to create a new virus. Influenza is easily spread by coughing, sneez­ing and direct contact with nose and throat secretions. Symptoms include the onset of fever and cough, chills, muscle aches, head­ache and a runny nose. There are several simple ways that everyone can prevent the spread of in­fluenza. The first step is to get a flu shot every year. Other simple ways are washing hands often with soap and water, using an alcohol-based sanitizer and cleaning surfaces regu­larly. Those who are sick should stay at home to avoid spreading the virus to others. Infected people can spread the virus to others before they show symptom.