Sun Country Health Region will begin its public influenza immunization program (flu shots) on Monday, October 21 with clinics in Estevan, Weyburn, Wawota, Redvers and Radville. Clinics in other communities will follow, with the full schedule of dates on our website at www.suncountry.sk.ca
Why should you make the flu shot a priority?
The simple answer is because it will help protect you, your family, your friends and your co-workers from the flu or, at the very least, from a more severe case of the flu. If you have children or elderly people in your family or your neighborhood, you will do them a favor by getting the flu shot and not spreading influenza to them. If you are immunized and still get the flu, (the vaccine is not perfect) it will be less severe than if you were not immunized.
We think of flu as being a harmless illness, but that's not necessarily the case. While most people will recover from influenza within a week or ten days, many vulnerable people, like the elderly and infants, adults and children with chronic conditions like diabetes, lung disease, heart disease and cancer - are at greater risk of more severe disease and complications, like pneumonia.
The Public Health Agency of Canada tells us that between 10to 20 per cent of the population becomes infected with influenza each year and up to 20,000 people are hospitalized. It's projected that about 4000 Canadians die of influenza and its complications annually. Influenza infection causes the most deaths of all the vaccine-preventable diseases combined.
There is a larger issue as well. Like most vaccination programs, the more people who are immunized against the flu, the less likely the disease can get a foothold in any population and start spreading. There is a public good component to getting the flu shot that can't be overlooked. Think about not spreading influenza in our communities to a patient with cancer or kidney failure or an organ transplant.
Wouldn't it be nice if the flu bypassed South Eastern Saskatchewan like the snow geese going south and missed us entirely?
The Public Health Agency tells us that in the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention.
The numbers tell the tale. Before the universal measles vaccine was introduced in Canada in 1983, there was an average of 369 cases of measles (per 100,000 population) each year between 1950-54. After the vaccine was introduced, there was an average of two cases per year, per 100,000 people, from 2000-2004.
The dreaded diphtheria numbers are more dramatic, showing an annual average of 84.2 cases (per 100,000 people) in the five year period from 1925-29. The numbers of tiny, old gravestones in all our local cemeteries shows the heartbreak that resulted from these diseases. Routine infant immunization was introduced in 1930. In the five years between 2000-2004, the annual average was zero cases per 100,000 people in Canada.
The flu virus spreads by respiratory droplets in the cough of infected people and on their hands.
So get your flu shot, wash your hands well and often, and you'll be doing yourself and all of us a favour. You might even save someone's life.