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’Flu shot clinics off to good start

FORT FRANCES—With winter—and the ’flu season—on its way, the Northwestern Health Unit started up its annual ’flu shot clinics here last week.

And Cindy McKinnon, program manager for infectious disease, noted they had a pretty good turnout, with a couple of hundred residents being immunized at the clinics held at Robert Moore and Huffman schools in Fort Frances.

“We’re just starting things off and hoping people will still take advantage of the other ’flu clinics,” McKinnon said, noting the clinics run until mid-December at various locations throughout the district, including in Emo, Nestor Falls, and Rainy River.

She added the clinics held at the local schools generally are walk-in clinics, but they would prefer appointments for any of the ones held at the health unit itself.

The dates, locations, and times of the clinics have been published in the Fort Frances Times and also are available by calling the Northwestern Health Unit.

“We’re encouraging parents of young children to have their kids immunized because when they get influenza, it often results in more hospitalization,” McKinnon stressed.

“And last year in the area, of all the children that had confirmed cases of influenza and were hospitalized, none of those children we’re immunized,” she added, noting everyone over the age of six months is eligible to receive the free influenza vaccine.

The only people advised to avoid getting a ’flu shot are those who have a true allergy to eggs or if they’ve had a previous adverse reaction to a ’flu shot, McKinnon said.

“People who have diabetes or any chronic conditions, they absolutely should get a ’flu shot because they are more susceptible to the ’flu and they have worse complications when they do get the true ’flu,” she indicated.

As in past years, the health unit is targetting people age 65 and over to get the ’flu shot, as well as health-care providers and volunteers in health-care institutions who are most likely to transmit the virus to the high-risk population.

McKinnon acknowledged there are some myths associated with getting the ’flu shot, such as those who claim it doesn’t work.

“In a healthy person, you are going to get up to a 90 percent rate of effectiveness,” she explained. “And even if the strains happen to not be exactly the same, you’re still going to get a cross-protection of up to 60 percent in a healthy person.”

She noted there is a new ’flu vaccine every year because the strains change. The three viral strains the vaccine contains this year are: A/Solomon Islands, A/Wisconsin, and B/Malaysia.

The first strain replaced the A/New Caledonia, which had been part of the vaccine for the past couple of years.

“The ’flu season will inevitably come,” McKinnon warned.

“And in addition, we’re just encouraging people to wash their hands regularly, cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze, and if they’re sick, don’t go to work and spread it,” she added.

For more information, contact the Northwestern Health Unit at 274-9827 or visit www.nwhu.on.ca

(Fort Frances Times)

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