By Chad Ingram
With the flu season just ramping up it’s difficult to gauge how effective this year’s vaccines will be but as always the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit is encouraging residents to get the shot.
“Based on much scientific evidence and surveillance information of circulating influenza viruses the World Health Organization makes recommendations in February of every year and provides a guide to national public health authorities and vaccine manufacturers for the development and production of influenza vaccines for the next influenza season” explains Anne Marie Holt the health unit’s director of communicable disease control epidemiology and evaluation. “In contrast to many other vaccines the viruses in influenza vaccines have to be updated frequently because circulating influenza viruses continuously evolve.”
For this flu season the trivalent vaccines being used by the health unit contain an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus an A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2)-like virus and a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus.
The quadrivalent vaccines being used contain these viruses and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
“So far the influenza strains that we are seeing are consistent with the strains contained in the vaccine” Holt says. “However since the influenza season is just ramping up it is really too early to tell regarding how well the vaccine ‘matches’ the circulating influenza strains.”
Two flu cases thought to be linked to travel outside Canada were reported in October and last week the first local lab-confirmed flu case of the year was reported to the health unit the virus being A pH1N1.
The health unit recommends that anyone over the age of six months get the annual flu shot.
“When there is a good match between the flu vaccine and the circulating flu strains people’s risk of getting sick from influenza is greatly reduced” Holt says. “People who get the flu shot can still get sick from influenza but if they do it is usually milder than if they had not been vaccinated. The flu is a preventable but serious respiratory illness caused by a virus.”
According to the health unit each year 200000 doctor visits and 1000 hospitalizations in Ontario are attributable to the flu.
The cost of the shot is covered by the provincial government.