Influenza season is upon us, and this year more than ever, it’s important to be educated on the signs and symptoms of the flu and to get vaccinated against the flu. The symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 are similar, and because of this it will likely cause some confusion and raise alarm in our communities. People with symptoms may be unsure of which virus they are infected with and being tested for COVID-19 will likely be even more common. Getting vaccinated against influenza is the best way to protect yourself and other members of our population against the spread of this still serious virus.
What are the signs & symptoms of influenza?
The major signs and symptoms of influenza are:
- Muscle/joint pain
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
These signs and symptoms often last 1-2 weeks and most people fully recover. High-risk populations include young children, elderly people, pregnant women, immunocompromised people, and those with chronic medical conditions. These people are more likely to have more serious impacts from the virus.
Why should we get vaccinated every year against influenza?
There are 2 main types of influenza that impact humans- Type A and Type B. Both of these viruses are broken down into different subtypes or lineages. Each year, the flu virus changes a little bit based on the subtype/lineage. This is why each year there is a new influenza vaccine to best target the type of influenza that will likely be most predominant in society. Getting a flu shot every year is the best way to protect yourself from contracting the flu.
How is influenza spread?
Influenza is a virus that is spread mostly through droplets that are formed when people with the virus cough, sneeze, or talk, and the droplets are then spread to people near them who breathe in these droplets. It is also possible to contract the virus by touching objects or shaking hands with someone who has the virus and then touching your own face. Wearing masks and practising proper hand hygiene can help to lower the risk of transmission of both influenza and COVID-19.
How does influenza impact our communities?
Influenza can have a significant impact on the lives of members of our community and our health care system. It is estimated that each year in Canada, over 12, 000 people are hospitalized and 3, 500 people die from the virus. Currently, many resources are already being used to treat and support those with COVID-19 and the addition of influenza infected patients could result in strain on our health care system.
What is herd immunity?
Herd immunity is a phrase that has become quite popular as we are becoming more aware of the spread of serious viruses. When a large portion of the population (the herd), is immune to a disease/virus, the spread from person to person becomes unlikely. If the majority of people get vaccinated against influenza, it will become harder for the virus to spread from person to person and through our communities. The goal of herd immunity is that the population as a whole will be protected from the disease, not just those individuals who are immune after vaccination or previous exposure. This protects those who are unable to be vaccinated against the virus and allows for a healthy community.
Universal Flu Vaccine in Newfoundland and Labrador
This year, vaccination against influenza has never been more accessible to everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador. Influenza vaccines for all residents will be paid for by the government at your local pharmacy, doctor’s office, or public health clinic. This means that no one in Newfoundland and Labrador will have to pay to be vaccinated at any location.
Receiving your Flu Vaccine in your Pharmacy
Influenza vaccines will be available in local pharmacies at no charge to any residents of NL. This means that your local pharmacist can easily provide you with protection against the flu to help keep you and our province safe! Contact your local pharmacy for more information about the vaccine and protecting yourself against the seasonal flu.
COVID-19 precautions and vaccination:
This year, due to the current pandemic, there will be extra precautions in place to help decrease the potential spread of COVID-19. Here are a few things to consider when receiving your influenza vaccination from your pharmacy.
- Wear a mask. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it is required of all residents (with some exceptions) to wear a mask in public buildings. To protect yourself and your pharmacist, please wear your mask during your vaccination.
- Contact your pharmacy to set up an appointment. Due to the high demand of vaccinations this year, many pharmacies are requiring an appointment for flu vaccinations to ensure adequate time for your injection, waiting period and cleaning procedures. Please try to show up on time to allow for a proper flow of vaccination/waiting period and to keep pharmacists on track for following appointments that day. Contact your local pharmacy to learn their procedures.
- Please do not enter the pharmacy if you have signs/symptoms of COVID-19, you have travelled out of the Atlantic Bubble in the last 14 days, are in isolation or are living with someone who has COVID-19 or is isolating.