Influenza (the flu) is a respiratory infection caused by the Influenza A or B virus. It is very contagious and can spread quickly and easily. Prior, we thought flu is spread easily from person to person by coughing, sneezing(large droplets), or touching contaminated surfaces. A more recent study of 2018 provides evidence that the fine aerosol droplets released during normal exhalation also transmit flu(shed virus). Before you even know you are sick, you can pass the flu on to others. More than 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada occur every year. Both children and adults may be infected with the influenza virus. Individuals at risk of serious complications include young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with ongoing health conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
The flu is marked by the sudden onset of a fever, headache(can be severe), cough, chest discomfort( dry cough can be severe),sore throat, stuffy, runny nose, body aches & pains (can be severe), bedridden & weakness(you may feel extremely exhausted). Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur, especially in young children.
It is important to distinguish between influenza A and influenza B strains, as they have different implications in older adults. Influenza B viruses circulate widely among humans only. Influenza A viruses circulate among both humans and many animal populations. As a result, the virus is much more virulent and has a much greater impact in adults over the age of 65.
Flu season this year is about four weeks ahead of previous years. Influenza remains a serious public health concern, especially for adults over the age of 65. While adults over 65 represent just 15% of the Canadian population, they experience 65% of influenza-related hospitalizations and 85% of influenza-related deaths. This is due to a natural phenomenon in the aging of the immune system, due to which older adults have a heightened susceptibility to influenza-related complications. Aging immune system means lower immune response to vaccinations therefore older population responds less effectively to current standard flu shot and can result in an increased incidence and severity of infectious diseases. To boost vaccine effectiveness among older adults, novel vaccination products have become available such as Fluzone High-Dose.
For 65 years of age and older, the high-dose Fluzone vaccine is available. it contains four times the antigen of a standard-dose influenza vaccine (60 ug versus 15 ug per dose). It protects against two influenza A viral strains and one influenza B viral strain. Currently just one high-dose, Fluzone High-Dose is available for 65 and over at no charge through your doctor's office.
In addition, ongoing medical conditions in adults over 65 places them at an even further risk of acquiring an influenza infection. Moreover, influenza worsens morbidity and mortality of existing illnesses. Even in healthy older adults without ongoing medical conditions, influenza can lead to new infections, such as secondary bacterial pneumonia or heart related complications such as heart attack or stroke. The high burden of influenza on seniors can also be attributed to factors such as lack of accessibility to vaccination among home-bound seniors, and impaired cognition affecting vaccine decision-making. As well, low immunization rates among those who come into contact with seniors, such as grandchildren and other family members, play a role in making seniors more susceptible to infection.
The flu shot has benefited millions of Canadians since 1946. It's a simple action that can prevent complications & save lives. There are benefits of influenza vaccination to support health and independent living among older adults. Influenza season typically runs from mid-October to the end of April. It's not late if you did not get your flu shot this season. It takes 2 weeks to be effective. To be healthy and spend quality time with your family during this Christmas, get your flu shot if you haven't done so.
At Longfields Pharmacy, we provide every season at no cost Flu shot to 5 years of age and older. For children under the age of five, please speak to your primary healthcare provider about vaccination.
For 65 and over, please check with your family doctor.
Prevention is the best key!