“Getting your flu shot is as important as ever.” We’ve all heard it before, but what does that really mean? Now that the cold weather is here, it’s time to book our flu shots and brush up on a few facts so we can all enjoy a healthy winter.
We knew the flu shot was important this time last year – we were in the second wave of the pandemic and no one wanted to risk getting COVID-19 and the flu, especially at the same time. Spring forward a year and most of the eligible population (born in 2009 or earlier) is vaccinated against COVID-19. These high vaccination rates and the availability of booster doses for those who need extra protection are critical in the fight against COVID-19, but there are other illnesses that put us and our health care system at risk.
The flu is a respiratory illness that circulates from October to April during what we call flu season. Last fall, because of the prevalence of COVID-19 and the absence of a vaccine, we were actively limiting our contacts and our travel while staying home as much as we could. This worked to slow the spread of COVID-19 and it also prevented the spread of the flu. But, now, for the first time since 2020, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has reported a lab-confirmed case of the flu.
While many consider the flu a mild illness that people can recover from at home with rest and fluids, we need to appreciate the fact that it can be a very serious illness resulting in hospitalization or even death. The flu causes about 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada each year. Some people are more vulnerable to complications and hospitalization from the flu. It is very important that these people and the people around them get the flu shot every year to help prevent serious illness and limit the spread of the flu in our families and communities.
We’ve seen the impact that vaccines can have. Because of the development, rollout and community uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine, our province has been able to lift many restrictions we have been faced with. However, with the reopening of businesses, workplaces and schools and the return to social gatherings, sports events and entertainment venues, we need to be mindful of the other viruses that are can still be spread from person-to-person contact, like the flu.
Tips to avoid getting and spreading the flu include: washing your hands often, covering your coughs and sneezes, not touching your face, staying home when you’re sick and cleaning surfaces like keyboards and counters. The best defense? Get vaccinated against the flu. The flu shot has been proven to reduce the number of doctor visits, hospitalizations and deaths related to the flu.
Use this as a reminder to lower your risk of getting sick with the flu. Book your appointment for your flu shot. It’s free, easy and there are lots of places you can get it. Reach out to your family doctor or primary care provider, a pharmacy or book an appointment online at one of WDG Public Health’s flu shot clinics. This year we are hosting clinics at the Alder Recreation Centre in Orangeville, the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex in Fergus and in the Stone Road Mall in Guelph.
Protect yourself and the people around you – get your flu shot.