The seasonal influenza vaccine is now available in the province.
“Vaccination is recognized as the single most effective way of reducing the impact of seasonal influenza, especially for those at risk of complications,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, acting chief medical officer of health. “I urge all New Brunswickers, especially vulnerable populations, to protect themselves and be immunized.”
Each year strains of seasonal influenza viruses change. As a result, the flu vaccine needs to change to ensure it protects against the current viruses.
Seasonal influenza poses serious health risks to the elderly, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems or other chronic health conditions. The Department of Health provides publicly-funded influenza vaccine for individuals at high risk of influenza. This year’s seasonal influenza vaccine is available free of charge to the following groups by many different immunization providers through a variety of programs:
- Adults and children with chronic health conditions:
o cardiac or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma);
o diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases;
o cancer, immune compromising conditions (due to underlying disease and/or therapy);
o renal disease;
o anemia or hemoglobinopathy;
o conditions that compromise the management of respiratory secretions and are associated with an increased risk of aspiration;
o morbid obesity (body mass index of greater than 40);
o children and adolescents with conditions treated for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid.
- people of any age who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities;
- people older than 65;
- healthy children six months to 18 years of age;
- pregnant women;
- aboriginal people;
- people capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk:household contacts (adults and children) of individuals at high risk of influenza-related complications (whether or not the individual at high risk has been immunized), as listed above;
o household contacts of infants younger than six months;
o household contacts of children 6 months to 59 months;
o members of a household expecting a newborn during the influenza season;
o health-care workers.All healthy persons aged 19 to 64 years are also encouraged to receive the flu vaccine, except those individuals who have shown an adverse reaction to the vaccine in the past or whose medical history suggests they might experience an adverse reaction.
“The flu is often seen as a minor illness but it should not be underestimated,” said Russell. “Seasonal influenza can be very serious for at-risk populations and there are flu-related hospitalizations and deaths every flu season. The best way to protect yourself and loved ones is through immunization.”
During the 2013-14 influenza season there were more than 1,400 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza. There were 269 influenza-related hospitalizations for the same period with 53 of those patients admitted to intensive care units. Fifteen New Brunswickers died due to illness associated with influenza.