“Winter is coming – and with winter comes influenza season.”

That’s the message from the Interior Health Authority (IHA), which is encouraging South Okanagan residents to “protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza, often called the flu, by getting your flu shot and preventing the spread of germs.”

“It’s especially important to get vaccinated if you have loved ones that are at increased risk of complications from influenza,” says Dr. Silvina Mema, a Medical Health Officer with IHA.

“When you get the flu shot, you improve your chances of going flu free this season. Furthermore, by getting the shot you are building protection around your loved ones and reducing their chances of getting sick.”

Interior Health immunization clinics will begin the week of Nov. 1 and will continue in communities throughout the month, with flu clinics by appointment available throughout the rest of the season.

The flu shot is also available from pharmacists, health-care providers, First Nations community health nurses and local health unit.

In Osoyoos, that will include the Osoyoos Health Centre, Shoppers Drug Mart and the Osoyoos Seniors Centre.

“The flu shot is safe, easy to get, and free for those at risk and their loved ones,” says the IHA.

“The people at the greatest risk of influenza-related complications are adults and children with underlying health conditions, residents of long-term care homes and other chronic-care facilities, people 65 years of age and older, children under 60 months of age, pregnant women, and Aboriginal peoples.”

Influenza is a serious and contagious respiratory infection that can lead to hospitalization and, in severe cases, death.

The infection spreads when a person comes into contact with droplets from an infected person who coughs or sneezes. Symptoms of influenza may include fever, aches, fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, a runny nose, sore throat, and cough.

“People often confuse influenza with the common cold, but they are not the same and are caused by different viruses,” says Dr. Mema. “A cold is usually a milder illness that can make you uncomfortable for a few days.

“In contrast, flu symptoms are more debilitating, and potentially life threatening to those at risk of complications.”

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