Alberta Health Services
Being sick is never fun, but many confuse influenza with the common cold or stomach flu. Influenza is characterized by a high fever, coughing, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite and fatigue. It can last up to a couple weeks and may lead to hospitalization, or in rare cases, death.
Over a six-month period last season, more than 1,600 Albertans were hospitalized and 64 Albertans died with influenza. Influenza causes more emergency department visits than heart attacks and strokes, not to mention significant downtime from work and leisure activities.
It is recommended that everyone aged six months and older receive the influenza immunization. Some people are at greater risk of contracting influenza, including anyone under the age of five, over 65 years of age, have a pre-existing health condition or are pregnant.
The influenza virus is spread through the air. Coughing, sneezing and even talking can cause the virus to get into the air. A person then breathes the air and inhales the virus. Touching objects that have been in contact with the virus can also spread influenza. Wash your hands regularly and cover your cough and sneezes to help reduce your risk.
Vaccines help you build the antibodies needed to fight the virus. Getting the influenza vaccine is your first line of defense. It lowers your risk of getting influenza by about half. If you do get influenza after getting the shot, it won’t be as severe. You will also help prevent the spread of influenza to others. Remember, protection starts about two weeks after you get the vaccine.
Free influenza immunization is available through Alberta Health Services Influenza Immunization Clinics, now until the end of March. To find your local clinic schedule, visit www.ahs.ca/influenza or call Health Link at 811.
Many pharmacies and physicians are also offering influenza immunizations. Call ahead to see if your doctor or pharmacist offers this service.
For more information on influenza and various other health related topics, visit myhealth.ab.ca or call Health Link at 811.