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Tag Archives: flu season

The most effective way of protecting yourself from the flu is by getting the flu shot each year. A new vaccine is developed annually based on the three strains of influenza which are predicted to be the most prevalent that year. The vaccine works by introducing a small amount of inactivated influenza virus into our body allowing our immune system to build an army of antibodies to the virus. If we are then exposed to the live virus, our immune system sends the antibodies to “attack” the foreign invader, preventing an infection from developing.
Unfortunately, sometimes the unexpected happens, as was the case this flu season. The influenza strain that ended up being the most widespread this year was not one of the three strains contained in the vaccine, so there were many cases of people getting sick – even those who did get vaccinated. Naturally, people are concerned about the effectiveness of the flu shot and have doubts about whether they should get the vaccine again.

Here are some points to consider when making your decision to get immunized next flu season:

1. Extensive research is done each year to make the decision about which three strains will be included in the vaccine. Generally, the predictions are very accurate and the vaccine prevents many thousands of people from becoming ill each year. However, we need to remember that the annual flu vaccine does not protect against all strains of the influenza virus, so there is a chance that someone could become infected with another strain.

2. We need to understand that what happened this year was unusual. This season, the virus essentially ‘outsmarted’ us. It was determined that the main viral strain mutated, leaving the vaccine less effective than expected. This mutation meant that the virus changed in such a way that the antibodies our immune system had developed after receiving the vaccine, were not able to mount a very effective response to infection by the live virus.

3. The flu vaccine CANNOT give you the flu. The components of the vaccine are inactivated influenza viral particles – meaning only pieces of the killed virus are present and are not able to cause infection.

4. Immunity from the flu shot is not immediate. It takes about 14 days for our immune system to develop antibodies to the strains contained in the vaccine. During this lag period, it is possible to develop an infection if contact with the virus occurs during the first two weeks after vaccination.

5. It is recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months be immunized each year. Not only can it protect you from becoming very sick, but it can help to protect those around you, by reducing the spread of the virus. Furthermore, if you do come down with the flu after receiving the vaccination, the infection will likely be less severe and may not last as long.

6. Vaccines – including the flu vaccine – do NOT cause developmental disorders like autism. People have become very concerned with the idea that thimerosal (a preservative used in some vaccines) is linked to the development of autism in children, but there is no evidence of this being true. However, there are flu vaccines available that do not contain thimerosal if you still have concerns.

6. It is beneficial to get the flu shot at any point during flu season; not only at the beginning. Also, it is a good idea to get vaccinated even if you have already had the flu that season as the infection may have been caused by a different strain.

Although the flu vaccine is the most important form of protection from the flu virus, people must remember that hand hygiene is also a key component to preventing the spread of infection. Washing hands thoroughly and often, using hand sanitizer when washing is not possible, and staying home if you have flu-like symptoms to avoid spreading the virus to others.
Influenza can be a serious illness for many people, especially children, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised, but the flu vaccine is important for everyone. It helps to protect yourself and those around you from potentially becoming very ill. If you have more questions about the flu vaccine, please talk to your pharmacist.

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Although we are in the midst of another flu season here in Canada, it has been the Ebola virus recently dominating headlines and causing fears around the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than 14,400 confirmed or suspected Ebola cases as of Nov. 11, 2014, mainly in the African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, thus making it the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded. The current epidemic has led to over 5,100 deaths and the lack of any vaccine continues to cause fears of a global spread of Ebola. However, a closer look at the details regarding these events should ease nerves and help shift focus back to the greater threat of year’s influenza strain.

In the early stages of infection, it is difficult to differentiate Ebola from the flu as both cause non-specific symptoms such as sudden onset of fever, fatigue, headaches and a sore throat. However, Ebola patients will begin to develop vomiting and diarrhea after 3-6 days and approximately half will also experience hemorrhagic events such as nosebleeds, bloody diarrhea, and bruising typically occurring between 2 to 21 days after initial symptoms appearIt is also important to note that unlike the flu, Ebola is not an airborne virus. Furthermore, Ebola can only be transmitted once symptoms appear while flu patients can spread the virus before and during their illness.

Scientists believe that the first Ebola patient contracted the virus after handling an infected animal, possibly a fruit bat or monkey. Unlike humans, these animals are able to ‘host’ the virus without becoming severely ill. Once a human becomes infected, transmission to other people may occur only through direct contact with blood, secretions or other bodily fluids from an Ebola-infected person. In West Africa, this direct contact occurs during traditional West African funerals that involve washing and touching the deceased as part of the mourning process. This practice is not commonly followed in Canada and would limit the rate of transmission if the virus somehow found its way to North America.

You may have heard speculation that mortality rates for the current Ebola outbreak are as high as 90 percent. Keep in mind that these inflated rates are based on patient care settings that are not as sophisticated as the resources available in Canadian facilities. Insufficient medical care, shortage of supplies and a lack of funding are undoubtedly contributing to the epidemic. Although there is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available for Ebola, our hospitals are able to provide high-quality supportive care which can help boost the patient’s own immune system enough to overcome the virus on its’ own.

Therefore, at least within Canada, there is no reason to fear those with a fever or upset stomach. However, reasonable precautions should be followed if we encounter people with Ebola-like symptoms who have also travelled to West Africa within the past 3 weeks. These patients should seek immediate treatment to ensure they receive the best available treatment as quickly as possible. And, of course, getting a flu shot is an easy, effective way to prevent ‘the other virus’ from spoiling your Holiday season!

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The practice of using vaccines to protect from infectious diseases goes back to the year 1000 AD. People have been researching, discovering, and improving vaccines for over one thousand years since then. During this time mankind has experienced many – often lethal – infections: small pox, diphtheria, tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid and tuberculosis to name a few. Fortunately, through the use of vaccines and antitoxins, many of these are no longer existent and those that have not been eradicated are under better control than ever.

There has, however, been considerable debate over the idea of vaccination. Many people are still not convinced that vaccines are a good idea despite the fact that every healthcare professional would agree that they are. There are very few risks associated with vaccinations and the side effects are generally mild. They may include:

  • Fatigue

  • Pain, redness, tenderness or swelling at injection site

  • Headache

  • Itching at injection site

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness or fainting (most common in adolescents)

  • Fever

  • Mild rash

More serious side effects from a vaccine may result from an allergy, but these are very rare (less than one in one million doses given). The important message is that there are far greater benefits to immunization than there are risks.

One of the most talked about vaccines in autumn is the flu vaccine. As we approach winter, it is time to prepare ourselves for Flu Season. What better way to prepare than to get the flu shot and prevent getting the flu in the first place? It is generally recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu shot. It is especially important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who work directly with the community, people who are at high risk of flu-related complications or hospitalization, and people with certain chronic health conditions. If you have questions or concerns about whether the flu shot is right for you, please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Trained pharmacists are now holding flu clinics in some pharmacies to increase awareness about the importance of getting immunized and provide greater ease of access to the flu shot for community members. This year the flu shot will be offered free of charge at each of the Boggio Family of Pharmacies locations. Come by one of our pharmacies to get your flu shot in a clean, comfortable, convenient setting.

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