Get shot up for New Year’s A flu shot today could prevent anguish in February By Chris Woodall They're already calling the fun-stopping bug "Whistler grunge" but whatever the moniker, getting your flu shot now may keep you in top form when influenza season arrives. Flu time is any time, but peak flu season runs from February to early March. Whistler doctors say to get the flu shot in the next week or two. The body needs to accept it over time for it to work properly. The shot is free if you have a chronic illness or are older than 65, but is $15 to the otherwise healthy. No appointment is needed. The process takes five minutes. There are three versions of the virus the shot should ward against. One strain comes from Johannesburg, South Africa; the other two come from Harbin and Nanchang in China, says Dr. Ron Stanley, one of five doctors at the Whistler Medical Clinic. Stanley estimates he and his colleagues have needled 500 Whistlerites so far this season. There have been 160 "free" shots injected so far, but public health nurse Marilyn McIvor is concerned that only a third of those have gone to seniors. "It's important that the over-65s get the shot," she says. Because of the person-to-person contact that is Whistler's resort life, people in businesses where they are meeting a lot of tourists may want to get the flu shot as a way to hedge their bets against coming down with the flu. If you want one thing more to stress out over, there's another strain of flu in Hong Kong (called the "bird flu") that has taken a few lives and threatens, so some newspaper stories say, to blossom into a pandemic: a disease so speedily prolific that millions could catch it within a very short space of time, possibly killing millions in the process. It's been done. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1921 spread around the world — and this in an age before commercial airflight — in a matter of months. Historians estimate 25 million people died from Spanish flu's effects. Strangely enough, the disease seemed to have a particular liking for healthy young adults. The race to develop a vaccine against the killer Hong Kong flu is complicated by the origins of the flu. It is thought to have come from chickens. The usual process to create a vaccine is to grow it in a chicken egg embryo. But the disease's beginnings means another means has to be found. "Touch wood we haven't seen it here," Stanley says, referring to the wide mix of visitors that come through Whistler with potentially more baggage than a pair of skis. "We are watching for it," Stanley says. Flu is characterized by a high fever (38.5C) that continues for more than 12-24 hours, sore throat, cough, and muscle aches, among other symptoms. If these sound familiar, especially the high sustained fever, get to a doctor. "A lot of people get a bacterial infection on top of the flu virus," Stanley says. It's that "extra bonus bug" that will do you in. "People don't usually die of the flu, it's the pneumonia they get as well," Stanley says. If you are flu bagged, do your friends and workmates a favour: stay home in bed, drink plenty of fluids and take Tylenol. Why not Aspirin? "Aspirin can upset your stomach and for children, taking Aspirin has been linked to them then getting Reyes Syndrome," Stanley says.