This year’s flu season is looking as if it may be much milder than last year’s, experts say, which is good news for Canadians. This is only a prediction, as it is essentially impossible to know for sure what the year’s flu season will look like. Flu season typically runs from late October to March in Canada.
A big clue for the Public Health Agency of Canada in estimating the severity of the flu season is to look at Australia as well as the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, as the flu season there stretches between May and October. This year, Australia reported the flu to be exceptionally tame and under control.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that, in the U.S., around 80,000 people died from influenza last year. This year the organization expects a much-weakened version of the virus worldwide.
“The predominant strains this year have been H1N1 and Influenza B, which tend to cause a much more moderate illness than H3N2 that caused a lot of trouble last year,” the CDC reported.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the flu shot for this season has been modified to better contest with the viruses’ predominant strands, although the virus can mutate while making its way to the Northern Hemisphere, making all educated guesses wrong. Experts advise that getting the flu shot is the best way to protect oneself.
“There is a common misconception with the flu shot, many believing the flu shot got them sick,” said Dr. Peter Ruffer, a family doctor of 50 years in Kitchener, Ont. ” Flu vaccines are currently produced in two ways: the flu vaccine is made with a virus that has been inactivated. Or, secondly, using a single gene from the virus to trigger immune response to create antibodies when in contact with the virus. It is essentially impossible due to how small the dosage is within the shot to ever get sick from it.
“This is the case for recombinant influenza vaccinations. The seasonal flu kills 646,000 yearly. By simply getting the shot you are protecting yourself and the ones you love.”
The flu shot is especially essential for protecting the elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems. Anyone, however, is a susceptible host for the flu, including a healthy adult.
“I didn’t get the flu shot in 2009 when the swine flu epidemic began,” said Markus Polovick a fitness trainer in Barrie, Ont. “I believed I was a healthy adult and my body could fight it off on its own. I work out every day and ate very well at the time. In early December I was hospitalized and remained in containment for two weeks. I thought I was going to die.
“There is a stigma around the flu shot and vaccinations in general,” Polovock said. “People think that if you are a healthy young adult you will be able to fight it off yourself. The flu season is unpredictable and the severity of the virus remains unknown until it hits Canada, which makes the flu shot extremely significant.”
In a recent press release, the Public Health Agency of Canada said, it’s too early to predict how effective this year shot will be, but that Canadians should still get their flu shots, which will likely be available in the last two weeks of October.
Retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall, as well as pharmacies and health clinics across Canada, offer free flu shots without any appointments. Health Canada has come up with online resources to easily find a clinic near you.
“The flu shot is crucial for maintaining a healthy holiday [season],” said Nicole Mendoza, a student at Conestoga College enrolled in the perinatal specialization program, referring to the gathering of groups of people on occasions such as Christmas. “It’s not only protecting yourself when you get the flu shot; you are protecting the people around you and the ones you love.
Flu shots will be available at the medical care clinic in Room 1A102 for full-time and part-time students and faculty who attended Conestoga College, Mendoza says.
FluWatch Maps is a resource put out by the Government of Canada, available for iOS and Android, that lists flu activity across the nation. Throughout the online site, users can see particular parts of the country, as well as other countries to which they may travel, in terms of where the flu is most active.