DIGBY, NS – It’s that time of year again – time to get a flu shot, that is.
As colder weather approaches, so does the prospect of contracting the influenza virus. Dr. Lynda Earle is the Medical Officer of Health for Western Nova Scotia and works in conjunction with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, and encourages everyone to get vaccinated.
With it free and readily available at every pharmacy and health centre across Digby and the province, the choice to get it is a simple one, according to Earle.
“People forget this virus and the complications it can cause can prove fatal. We still get 25 to 30 deaths from it every year in Nova Scotia,” she said.
While it’s too early to confirm what the whole season will be like, there is a stream of the virus that’s been circulating this year – referred to as H3N2 – found to be more violent infection than others.
Several strains of the ever-evolving virus infect people every year, according to Earle, which is why the vaccines target the four most common strains of the virus, separated into categories called 2A and 2B.
“The flu is a very tricky virus, which is why it’s so important for people to get vaccinated,” she said.
It’s common knowledge that children and the elderly are most at risk for the virus, but pregnant women and anyone with chronic illness is also considered high risk.
It’s the complications from the virus that can potentially affect these groups the most.
“Even if you consider yourself a strong, healthy individual, you never know who else you will affect, so you should still get vaccinated,” said Earle.
Most infections don’t occur until winter has set in, but the vaccine itself can take up to two weeks to work, so it’s never too early to get it done, Earle said.
Prioritizing public health
The health authority states the prioritization of public health in Nova Scotia has been on the rise since the 1990’s.
While demographics like seniors in long term care facilities have a near to 100 per cent vaccination rate, the rest of the public is not the same.
Increases in the number of vaccinations spiked after the H1N1 crisis, and also since vaccines became available at all pharmacies, but Earle says numbers could still be much better.
Data from the 2016-2017 flu season indicates only 36.5 per cent of the overall population of Nova Scotia received the vaccine.
“We really do think the vaccination is safe and effective, and encourage everyone to get it,” said Earle.