Now that it’s January, flu season is in full swing in Ontario. The good news? It’s not too late to get your flu shot. In fact, many pharmacies are still offering the vaccine.
“Sometimes the flu shot is not as protective as it is in other years, but it’s still worth getting,” says Dr. Jerome Leis, the medical director for infection prevention and control at Sunnybrook.
The flu this year has three different strains, and the vaccine is likely to provide good protection for at least two of them.
Below are three things you should know about the flu:
Protect those around you
Getting the flu shot is important because not everyone can get the flu vaccine, including babies younger than six months old (who are too young to receive it). Influenza can cause serious illness and death, particularly among the elderly, very young children, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions. Even seemingly simple illnesses in healthy people, like the common cold, can become deadly to those with compromised immune systems.
“The flu shot not only protects you, but also the most vulnerable people in the community,” says Dr. Leis.
If you get the flu, you’re contagious – so stay home!
If you get the flu, you’re the most contagious for the first three days and up to five days. You’ll feel sick during that time, too, so it’s important to limit your contact with other people during that period. If you do get sick, don’t go to work, and try to stay away from crowded places so you don’t pass the flu virus on to someone else.
Take precautions like cleaning your hands
It’s important to take steps to prevent the spread of the flu. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve rather than your hands, stay home when you’re sick and clean your hands often.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Both are effective at removing (washing) or killing (hand sanitizer) bacteria and viruses, including respiratory viruses.
Hand sanitizer should contain alcohol at a minimum concentration of 60 per cent to be effective. Many people find alcohol-based hand sanitizer to be a convenient way to clean their hands, especially in public places where hand washing sinks with soap and water are not always available. Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse, pocket or backpack.