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Health professionals tracking a mild flu season, but still advising you to get your shot

Flu shots available by appointment as of Oct. 22
Flu season is right around the corner and Public Health Sudbury and Districts is advising Sudburians of all ages to get their flu shot. (File)

Flu season is right around the corner and Public Health Sudbury and Districts is advising Sudburians of all ages to get their flu shot.

There is no crystal ball when it comes to predicting the severity of a specific flu season, though health care professionals are projecting that this year's vaccine will be a good match to this flu strain.

"We always look at our partners in the southern hemisphere, so it's usually Australia's flu season, to see if the vaccine was a good match for what was circulating at the time," said Justeen Mansourian-Christakos, an infectious disease nurse, Public Health Sudbury and Districts.

"So far, and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) updates that weekly, it is a good match and the flu season has been considered mild. We're able to get a bit of a head start on the prediction and we have that lead because they go through it before we do."

This year, the government is doing something a bit different than years past and will be offering every Ontario resident six months of age and older, including pregnant women, a quadrivalent flu vaccine which is broad protection.

"We're used to getting protection against two A strains and a B, this year it's two As and two Bs," said Mansourian-Christakos.

There is also a higher dose trivalet vaccine which protects against two A strains and one B strain that is available to individuals who are 65 years of age or older.

"The messaging is get your flu shot regardless of which one it is, but we do have the high dose vaccine available to our seniors, but that's not available until Oct. 29," said Mansourian-Christakos. "But they're still eligible for the quadrivalent."

The health care system was a little overworked last year, as the flu season was longer than normal. In Sudbury, there were more than 250 lab-confirmed cases of the flu virus.

"When we give a number of 250, those are lab confirmed where a health care provider actually took a swab up somebody's nose and it was reported to public health," said Mansourian-Christakos.

"We're not talking about the hundreds of cases that were diagnosed imperically, which means you walked in with flu symptoms and your health care provider diagnosed you with the flu without lab confirmation," said Mansourian-Christakos.

There are also dozens, if not hundreds of people who suffer flu-like symptoms and opt to tough it out in bed for a few days.

Your best protection against the flu is to get your shot, but Mansourian-Christakos also advises being vigilant with hand washing this time of year, and teaching children at home to do so as well.

"Cover your cough, and if you're sick, stay home," said Mansourian-Christakos.

The flu vaccine will be released to health care providers and pharmacists after Oct. 10. Sudbury has more than 50 local pharmacists that participate in the universal influenza program who will be administering flu vaccines.

Public Health Sudbury and Districts will be taking appointments for flu vaccines as of Oct. 22.

"The flu peaks differently from season to season, but tend to say flu season is from mid-October until the end of March," said Mansourian-Christakos.

"We tend to see it peak around Christmas time when everyone is out and about. The thing is it's highly infectious, the incubation period is 24 hours so if you have exposure you can develop symptoms the next day. The flu shot takes 10-14 days to kick in so the aim of the game is to get it before all the activity starts."

You can find out where to get your flu shot by visiting Public Health Sudbury and Districts' immunization page.


Matt Durnan

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