September 30, 2020

BY JESSICA REDIKER

Influenza is a dirty word. For some, it motivates them to stand in a long line waiting for a needle, while for others it causes them to roll their eyes at the very idea of being vaccinated. Whatever side of the issue you’re on, there’s no arguing that flu season is upon us.
Widespread infection because of the virus typically occurs from mid-October to January globally, creating an annual epidemic that results in three to five million severe cases and up to 500,000 deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization.
The flu can infect anyone but children and adults over 65 years of age run a higher risk of complications.
“People who are susceptible to diseases … or those who have chronic illness such as diabetes, can greatly benefit from getting the flu shot,” said Meghan Clark, a peer health educator with Conestoga’s health services, adding that if you are in good health, getting the flu shot is still recommended, but not as urgent.
With so many students at Conestoga, germs are catching a ride from one person to the next. It is important to know the difference between symptoms of the common cold and something more serious.
The telltale flu signs to look out for, according to the Region of Waterloo Public Health’s website, include fever, headache, severe pains and extreme exhaustion. These symptoms are uncommon for a cold, but present in those infected with the flu.
So why would anyone think twice before getting the shot?
Its effectiveness is a point of much debate.
Though most health departments will cite the effectiveness of the flu shot at between 70 and 90 per cent, a recent study challenged this, as well as the fact that most of the statistical data on the vaccine’s effectiveness began in the 1940s.
The findings of the report place the vaccine’s effectiveness at a rate of approximately 59 per cent in healthy adults, and even less in young children and adults over 65.
The report, The Compelling Need for Game Changing Influenza Vaccines from the CIDRAP Comprehensive Influenza Vaccine Initiative, summed up more than 12,000 relevant documents, as well as personal interviews.
However, the vaccine was not intended to be a cure-all, as it only protects you from three of the expected strains of the virus.
“You can still get the flu after you get the flu shot because strains of the influenza virus mutate and the flu shot may not contain protection against those specific strains,” said Clark.