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Page added on November 27, 2013

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The truth about the FLU

It’s that time of the year when you see advertisements for the flu shot everywhere. Did you know that for the 2012-2013 immunization year only 871,539 Albertans received the flu shot out of its 3,906,800 residents? Why? Probably because a lot of people do not know the importance of getting a flu shot.

What is the flu anyway? The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue (feeling very tired), and children may also have vomiting and diarrhea. The flu is often confused with the common cold. Flu and the common cold share almost the same symptoms, but the symptoms are severe and often lasts more than a week when you have the flu. A common complication of the flu is pneumonia, or inflammation of the lungs, which causes chest pain and shortness of breath.

How does the flu spread? Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu, cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose. You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time. Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu. This includes older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), and persons who live in facilities like nursing homes.

How do you protect yourself from the flu? Frequent hand washing is an important way of preventing the flu and the common cold. Remember to wet your hands with water, then lather up soap in your hands and scrub, be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Do this for about 20 seconds, which is equivalent to singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Then rinse your hands with clean running water, and use a clean towel or air to dry.

However, the best way of preventing the flu is getting a flu shot. The flu vaccine contains inactivated (dead) influenza virus that does not have the ability to reproduce to cause the disease. This inactivated virus is recognized by our immune system, which triggers it to create antibodies. Antibodies are our own personal protection from a disease. After getting a flu shot, when a flu virus enters our body, the immune system recognizes it and fights it off right away, which prevents you from getting sick.

The flu shot is available for all Albertans for free starting sometime in October every year. You can go to your family doctor or the local health center for a flu shot. Also, most pharmacists that have been authorized to provide injection services provide the flu shot for Alberta residents aged 9 and older. Most pharmacists accept walk-in patients, however some provide the injections by appointment only. Contact your pharmacist to learn more about the flu and how to prevent it from spreading.


Marie Klynne Brinas, BSc. Ind. Pharm., RPh-APA

Pharmacy Manager – New Brighton Remedy’s Rx

(403) 453-3363


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