(NC) Ontario’s acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams is reminding people that the flu is more than just a “bad cold.”
“Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to illness, hospitalization and even death,” he says. “Getting the flu shot is the best defense against getting the flu. It can help your body build its defenses and can make you more resilient to flu viruses.”
Flu viruses change every year so the vaccines used to help protect against them are updated as well. Each flu season, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the most common viruses that are going around. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated every year and do it early, since it can take about two weeks for the vaccine to help protect you against flu viruses.
“The flu shot is also safe and well-tolerated,” points about Dr. Williams. “Like all medicines, the ingredients in a flu vaccine have been tested to make sure they are safe. Public Health Ontario and the Public Health Agency of Canada regularly perform safety checks of the flu vaccine.”
Common side effects of the flu shot are soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given. Serious reactions to the flu shot are very rare.
It is possible to sometimes get the flu even though you’ve had the shot. But this could happen for a number of reasons.
“At the time of year the flu vaccine is given, many cold viruses are circulating that have similar symptoms as the flu virus and can be mistaken as influenza,” says Dr. Williams. “Or you may have been exposed to the flu virus before you got the shot. But if you get the flu after getting the shot, you may not get as sick.”
Flu shots can be received free of charge as part of Ontario’s Universal Influenza Immunization Program at participating pharmacies, your local health care provider’s office or public health clinic.
Find the flu shot clinic nearest you at Ontario.ca/flu.
Other things you can do to avoid getting the flu include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol.
- Coughing and sneezing into a tissue or your arm, not your hand.
- Staying at home if you are sick, and avoid contact with people who are sick with the flu.
- Cleaning surfaces often (for example, counter tops, keyboards and telephones).
Flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to 8 hours.