Flu season has arrived, and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is strongly urging residents to get the influenza vaccine to best protect themselves, their families, the community, and the health care system this fall and winter.
“This year, it is critical that everyone eligible gets the annual flu shot,” said Dr. Colin Lee, SMDHU associate medical officer of health. “Low rates of influenza during the past two seasons means our immunity against the flu virus is lower than usual. Coupled this year with reduced public health measures like masking and social distancing, we are anticipating it may be a more severe flu season.”
Vaccination against seasonal influenza remains the most effective way to prevent or reduce the severity and duration of the disease. It can also help to reduce the chances individuals will need medical attention or hospitalization. With on-going COVID-19 activity in the community, up-to-date vaccination for both viruses is an important component of managing health care system capacity and ensuring there is care for those who need it.
“Some individuals are more vulnerable to serious complications and hospitalization from the flu and are encouraged to get the flu shot as soon as possible,” said Dr. Lee.
Those considered at higher risk for influenza include:
- Individuals who are pregnant
- People who are residents of nursing homes or other chronic care facilities
- People 65 years of age and older
- All children 6 months to 4 years of age
- Indigenous peoples
- Adults or children 6 months of age and over with chronic health conditions
- Healthcare providers
Swine, poultry, and animal shelter workers should also get the flu shot as early as possible to prevent the spreading of influenza viruses between human and animal populations.
The flu shot is now available free of charge to all residents over the age of 6 months through primary care providers and at local pharmacies for those 2 years of age and older. For those at higher risk, the influenza vaccine is also available in other settings such as long-term care homes, retirement homes, some workplaces, hospitals, and community health centers.
Seasonal flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. The flu shot will not protect against COVID-19, but it will help reduce the risk of getting influenza and COVID-19 at the same time, which could put individuals at a higher risk for severe complications. Individuals ages 5 and above who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines are able to receive both the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines at the same time.
For more information about influenza and getting the flu shot, visit the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s website at www.smdhu.org/flu or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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