As flu season gets underway, Fraser Health's chief medical health officer is reminding residents the flu shot is provided free of charge to those at highest risk of severe flu illness, as well as those who are close contacts or caregivers.
Public health clinics providing free flu shots to people at high risk of complications from the flu are now underway in Fraser Health communities. New this year, healthy children aged six months to less than five years of age and household contacts and caregivers of children less than five years of age are eligible for the free vaccine.
"In a typical flu season, thousands of people develop serious illness or even die from the flu or its complications, such as pneumonia," Dr. Paul Van Buynder said in a press release. "The influenza vaccine is the best protection against influenza illness and its complications and is a safe and effective way to help people stay healthy, prevent illness and even save lives."
Influenza is the leading cause of preventable death due to infectious disease in Canada, killing thousands of Canadians every year and hospitalizing thousands more. It spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, face-to-face contact and by touching surfaces such as door knobs and telephones that have been contaminated with the virus.
The flu season usually runs from November to April with an estimated 10 to 25 per cent of people infected each year. A person can have the flu virus without knowing it, and pass it on to someone who may become seriously ill. An estimated 200 to 300 Fraser Health residents, mainly seniors, die every year from complications of influenza infection.
Free flu shots are highly recommended and provided to several groups, including:
. People 65 and older and their caregivers
. Children and adults with chronic health conditions and their household contacts
. Healthy children aged six months to under five years
. Household contacts and caregivers of infants and children under five years
. Pregnant women who will be in their third trimester during the influenza season
. People who are very overweight (those with a body mass index of 40 or greater)
Upcoming flu shot clinics in the Tri-Cities include:
. Monday, Nov. 19, from 1 to 6: 30 p.m. at the Leigh Square Community Arts Village (old post office), 2253 Leigh Square Pl. in PoCo. By appointment only. Call 604-777-8700.
. Tuesday, Nov. 20, from 9 to 11: 30 a.m. at Dogwood Pavilion, 624 Poirier St. in Coquitlam. By appointment only. Call 604-9497200.
. Thursday, Nov. 29, from 9 a.m. to noon at Glen Pine Pavilion, 1200 Glen Pine Crt., Coquitlam. By appointment only. Call 604-9497200.
For a complete list of flu clinics near you, visit www.fraserhealth.ca or consult the BC Flu Clinic Locator at www.health.gov.bc.ca/flu.
Bring your CareCard or other government I.D. (valid driver's licence) to the clinic, and wear a short-sleeved shirt. Many doctor's offices and pharmacies also provide vaccine free-of-charge to those who are eligible. More information is available on the Immunize BC website at www.immunizebc.ca and the HealthLink BC website at www.healthlinkbc. ca. You can also call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to speak to a health-care professional.
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