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Doctors predicting nasty flu season



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"When you don’t take precautions, you could wind up missing work, and you could wind up missing the fun too, as you could find yourself sick in bed on a powder day," says Marilyn McIvor, public health nurse for the Coast Garibaldi area.

Your best bet for staying healthy is to wash your hands, get adequate sleep, eat nuritious foods, avoid tobacco and get a flu shot.

"A flu shot is safe and effective. It’s still the best protection you have against this disease," says McIvor.

Dr. Paul Martiquet, the medical health officer for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, is also recommending that people get a one-time pneumo-coccal vaccination that protects against pneumonia, influenza, and various coccal diseases like Streptococcus.

"Absolutely the best medicine here is prevention," he says.

In Whistler, those who qualify for free vaccinations will be able to get them from the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority through their family physicians or the public health clinic at the Whistler Health Care Centre by appointment.

Those with an increased risk of infection include:

• all people over 65 year of age;

• adults and children with heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, diabetes, anemia, cancer;

• adults and children with immune disorders such as HIV;

• health care workers and other first responders such as police, fire and paramedical workers.

For everyone else, the flu vaccine is available from doctors and the Travel Medicine and Vaccination Clinic, which is hosting its first drop-in vaccination clinic during the annual Whistler-Blackcomb Turkey Sale & Ski Swap at the base of Blackcomb Mountain.

The cost is $20 per person, and the clinic will operate during the regular hours of the sale. In addition, businesses can contact the Travel Medicine and Vaccination Clinic for in-house vaccination of staff members.

For more information, contact McIvor at the Travel Medicine & Vaccination Centre in Whistler at 604-905-8831.

Facts and Figures

• The flu is expected to infect one in four healthy adults this winter. Each infected person will be absent from work for 3 to 5 days, and will be affected for up to two weeks.

• Each year approximately 1,400 people in B.C. die from influenza and related pneumonia.

• The vaccine cannot give you the flu – the viruses in the vaccination formula are dead or otherwise deactivated. Side effects include redness and soreness in the area the shot was administered, and for some people a mild fever, fatigue and body aches for a day or two afterwards. A few people have a reaction called oculo-respiratory syndrome that causes redness in both eyes, and possibly a cough, sore throat, wheeze, tightness of chest, shortness of breath, or facial swelling. It is not a chronic reaction – according to studies, those who suffered ORS symptoms with vaccination in 2000 did not suffer again in 2001.