Influenza causes about 5,000 deaths yearly in Canada.
Keys to decreasing this toll are vaccination and early treatment.
Influenza is highly infectious and contagious and anyone can be infected. Those living or working in crowded conditions, such as in healthcare institutions, day care, and in such areas of any contact with other people . This would include firemen, police officers and others.
Fever, headache, aches and pains, and abrupt myalgia and fatigue are the ususal symptoms.
Because antibiotics don't work against viruses, victims must wait for the body to mount a defense against the strain of infection. A vaccination helps the body prepare its defense in advance by building up an immunity.
While in previously-healthy patients the acute illness may resolve within a couple of weeks, some patients can develop complications, such as pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Winter brings the highest risk of flu infection because people are indoors and in closer contact.
The administration of flu vaccine is traditionally targeted at those individuals who would be at risk of serious morbidity or death from the grippe or virus. This includes those over 65 years of age, and those of any age with a significant underlying illness, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, hearth disease, etc. Patients whose immune system may be suppressed by chemotherapy or steroids are also high risk, Many others often choose to be vaccinated, such as health care workers and teachers, as they are usually exposed to more than their share of sick people. In fact, it is now recommended that anyone wishing to reduce their risk of contracting the flu become immunized.
The influenza vaccine is updated annually to include viruses are antigenically similar to the strains of the three distinct groups of influenza viruses that have been in worldwide circulation.
Use of the vaccine results in a 70% reduction in efficacy in prevention of illness among the elderly living in the community and a 87% reduction in deaths
The cost of the vaccine is minimal compared to the time lost to flu.
The vaccine becomes effective about two weeks after immunization and lasts for about six months.
When is the best time to vaccinate?
The optimal time for organized vaccination campaigns is mid-October through mid-November. The vaccine becomes effective about two weeks after immunization and lasts for about six months.
- Adults and children with chronic cardiac or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma) severe enough to require regular medical follow-up or hospital care. Chronic cardiac and pulmonary disorders are by far the most important risk factors for influenza-related death.
- People of any age who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities.
- People 65 years of age and over. The risk of severe illness and death related to influenza is moderately increased in healthy people in this age group but is not nearly as great as in people with chronic underlying disease.
- Adults and children with chronic conditions such as diabetes and other metabolic diseases, cancer, immunodeficiency ( including HIV infection), immunosuppression, renal disease, anemia and hemoglobinopathy.
- Children and adolescents with conditions treated for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid. This therapy mich increase the risk of Reye's syndrome after influenza.
- People capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk may include health care and other personnel who have significant contact with people in the high-risk groups previously described.
- People who provide essential community services may be considered for vaccination to minimize the disruption of routine activities in epidemics. Vaccine may also be administered to those who with to reduce their chances of acquiring infection.
- People at high risk of influenza complications embarking on foreign travel to destinations where influenza is likely to be circulating should be vaccinated with the most current available vaccine. In the tropics, influenza can occur throughout the year.
- Women who will be in the third trimester of pregnancy during the influenza season may be at increased risk for medical complications following influenza infection and should consult with their heath-care providers.
Side effects of the vaccine
There are two types of side effects: local and systemic
Very mild local discomfort occurs in a few of the patients (25-30%).
Systemic reactions occur in 1-2% of patients usually within a few hours of receiving the vaccine.
Since the vaccine is prepared from a virus grown in embryonated hen's eggs, it is contraindicated in persons with an allergy to eggs.