man sneezing

With cold and flu season coming up, you might be wondering whether or not to get a flu shot this year. The answer is yes! Health Services provides flu clinics in October and November to help make it easy and convenient to get your flu vaccine and help stop the spread of influenza.

What is Influenza?

The Region of Waterloo Public Health department defines the flu as “a serious, acute, respiratory infection that is caused by a virus.” People who get the flu typically have a fever, chills, cough, runny eyes, sore throat, stuffy nose, muscle and headaches, fatigue, and extreme weakness. Public Health notes that influenza typically lasts two to seven days but some symptoms, like cough and fatigue can persist for several weeks.

Why should I get the vaccine?

People can get quite sick from influenza, requiring hospitalization and in some cases, the flu can even cause death from complications. Even healthy, young people should get the vaccine, to avoid missing work or school, but also to avoid spreading influenza to people who might not have well developed immune systems. Public Health notes: “Any one could bring the influenza virus home to a baby, older relative, or someone with a medical condition who could develop serious complications from influenza.” People in high-risk categories are strongly encouraged to get the influenza vaccine.

Who is considered to be in a high-risk category?

People in the following high risk categories are strongly encouraged to get the flu immunization: (Source: National Advisory Committee on Immunization)

  • All pregnant women.
  • Adults and children with the following chronic health conditions:
    • cardiac or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma);
    • diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases;
    • cancer, immune compromising conditions (due to underlying disease, therapy or both);
    • renal disease;
    • anemia or hemoglobinopathy;
    • neurologic or neurodevelopment conditions;
    • morbid obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥40);
    • children and adolescents (age 6 months to 18 years) undergoing treatment for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid, because of the potential increase of Reye’s syndrome associated with influenza.
  • People of any age who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities.
  • People ≥65 years of age.
  • All children 6 to 59 months of age.
  • Indigenous peoples.

People capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk

  • Health care and other care providers in facilities and community settings who, through their activities, are capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk of influenza complications.
  • Household contacts (adults and children) of individuals at high risk of influenza-related complications (whether or not the individual at high risk has been immunized):
    • household contacts of individuals at high risk, as listed in the section above;
      household contacts of infants <6 months of age as these infants are at high risk of complications
    • from influenza but cannot receive influenza vaccine;
    • members of a household expecting a newborn during the influenza season.
  • Those providing regular child care to children ≤59 months of age, whether in or out of the home.
  • Those who provide services within closed or relatively closed settings to persons at high risk (e.g., crew on a ship).

How well does the influenza vaccine work?

According to Region of Waterloo Public Health: “When there is a good match between the influenza strains in the vaccine and the influenza strains circulating in the community, the vaccine can prevent influenza illness in 50 -80 percent of healthy children and adults.” It does take about two weeks after a flu vaccination for your immune system to develop protection against the influenza virus, so get yours early.

When are the Health Services Flu clinics?

The community flu clinics are running on the following dates and times:

November 6, 2018, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the SLC multi-purpose room.
November 7, 2018, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the SLC multi-purpose room.
November 8, 2018, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the SLC multi-purpose room.

Getting the flu shot can be an effective way to maintain your health through cold and flu season. By avoiding the flu, you save time and energy for more important things like class, hanging out with friends, and visiting family members who might be at a high-risk for flu complications. All University of Waterloo community members (students, staff, and faculty) can get their influenza vaccination at one of our flu clinics. If you can’t make it our flu clinics, you can make an appointment at Health Services (after the scheduled dates), or visit one of the many pharmacies in town that offer flu shots.

Sources: https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/health-and-wellness/flu.aspx