With the first fall of snow upon us, the cold reality of a Canadian climate is just around the corner. As we transition from fall to winter, we are now firmly within what is known as the flu season. The end of autumn, and the entirety of our long frosty winter is when we are most susceptible to this potentially deadly virus.
Generally speaking, the biggest fear surrounding the flu is founded upon its infectiousness! For most, our experience and focus regarding influenza are the fevers, frenzied coughing and associated sick days that are rampant amongst those effected. But the burden of influenza is far bigger than a few bed-ridden days. Although rest and recuperation are essential for anyone affected by any strand of this infection, the possible repercussions are far more frightening.
The World Health Organisation estimates that up to half a million people die annually from the virus. With Canada accounting for 3,500 of these deaths, this is not a problem that is purely isolated to the developing world.
People over the age of 65 are categorised as being at high risk of influenza-related complications or hospitalisation and are especially recommended to receive the flu vaccination by the Canadian Public Health Agency. The immune system of a senior citizen weakens with age leaving them more vulnerable not just to contracting the infection, but also open to developing flu-related complications and hospitalizations.
Pneumonia is the threat that looms most menacingly for any older person who is hit with influenza. This condition is the fourth most common cause of death among the elderly. Typically an affect of the flu is that the already enfeebled immune system of a senior is further exposed to attack. If an individual in in hospital, chances of developing the lung-based infection are even higher.
The value of the flu vaccine for the elderly is immeasurable. In addition to drastically reducing the probability of catching the virus, the possibility of dangerous complications is even less likely. Early inoculation is important, however if you or a family member are over 65 and remain unvaccinated, please find your nearest location for immunisation.
A general tip is to avoid the vaccine if:
- In the past you experienced any serious adverse reaction post-vacination
- You have previously developed Guillain-Barre-Syndrome within a 6 week window of receiving the flu-jab
- You have significant allergies to one or more of the inoculation’s ingredients. The exception to this is eggs. Although the vacciniation may contain egg proteins this will not produce a reaction for those allergic to eggs. Check the following link for a full understanding of what the vaccines comprise as per the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Please note if you currently have a serious illness with symptoms such as a fever it is best to wait for these symptoms to dissipate before inoculation. This is only relevant for severe acute conditions and not applicable for minor ailments or sicknesses such as a cold.
Becker D, Chit A, DiazGranados C, et al. High-Dose Inactivated Influenza Vaccine is Associated with Cost Savings and Better Outcomes Compared to Standard-Dose Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Canadian Seniors. (Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics. 2016)