Alberta Health Services is preparing for a rough flu season ahead.
Starting on Oct. 23 influenza immunizations will be available at the St. Albert Inn and Suites from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“Immunization is the best chance at protecting ourselves,” says Chris Sikora, medical officer at Alberta Health Services in the Edmonton Zone, which includes St. Albert.
The flu season in North America typically follows in the footsteps of the flu season in the southern hemisphere, which is currently getting over a nasty strain of H3N2 influenza.
H3N2 influenza A can be more severe than other influenza strains for those older than 65, leading to serious complications, higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths.
Three years ago the virus left its mark due to the vaccine being a mismatch.
Sikora says immunization is the best way to prevent getting the flu. There is, however, a slight chance that the vaccine won’t be a match.
“The vaccine is our best shot at protecting ourselves, our loved ones and our patients from contracting illness. That being said, these are viruses that can rapidly change and mutate in a short period of time,” he says. “It’s too early in the season to tell if it’ll be a good match or not.”
“Our best guess is that it will be, but that may change over the season.”
He says regardless of whether the shot works or not, it’s people’s best chance at protecting themselves from the flu. Those who get the shot will typically feel milder flu symptoms than had they opted out of getting it.
The flu season kicks off in the fall and lasts until spring, Sikora says.
“We’re never certain when the season will actually start, but historically it always comes in the fall, winter, spring time period and is usually present, influenza circulating in communities for about eight to 12 weeks,” he says.
Symptoms include: rapid onset fever, aches and pains, sometimes chills and coughing.
Sikora says anti-viral medication, hand washing and proper cough etiquette is recommended as additional ways to prevent spreading the illness.
For more information visit the AHS website at http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/influenza/influenza.aspx.