Flu season is fast approaching, IH speaks about prevention

Flu season fast approaching

Sarita Patel

With temperatures dipping and influenza season nearing, people are going to start getting sick. But what is the difference between the common cold, the flu and COVID-19?

Castanet spoke with Dr. Carol Fenton, a medical health officer with Interior Health (IH), to discuss the differences and how you can remain safe this flu season.

“For the flu, specifically, the best way to prevent it is to get the flu shot,” she said.

“Unfortunately, because we don’t have vaccines for the common cold and COVID, our prevention measures are going to be the same ones that we’ve been hearing about for the past six months.”

Since it is no longer safe to have mass flu-shot clinics, they’ve shifted to an appointment-based model where you're asked to get the shot at your local doctor’s office or pharmacy. 

“We’ve been allocating vaccines to them, they’re set up, they’re doing a lot of really innovative things in order for it to prevent COVID," Fenton said.

One such innovation saw a Kelowna doctor offer a drive-thru flu shot clinic.

Some residents have reached out to Castanet to express concerns about a lack of supply of the vaccine in the region, with many pharmacies out of stock, but more is on the way according to IH.

“We’re also monitoring the situation to make sure that that plan is adequate and that people in communities have access," Fenton said. "So if we find that there are communities that aren’t enough providers offering flu vaccine, public health could step in and intervene so that it is available.”

IH is juggling the resources required for an influenza vaccine program and regular COVID-19 testing, which is a challenge. 

“We’re seeing higher demands on testing... we’re in the fall here so we’re more likely to have the sniffles. Across the province, we're seeing the demand in testing going way up and we’re trying to keep up with that," Fenton said. 

Dr. Fenton says the a flu shot can reduce the burden on the healthcare system, which typically sees a surge in hospitalizations due to the flu annually.  

“This year, our healthcare system and our first line providers are working really hard - their jobs are made more complicated by COVID-19 prevention measures and the PPE requirements that they’re required to follow because of that,” she adds.

“We also need to make sure that we have the capacity if we have more hospitalizations from COVID.”

Dr. Fenton says the other important reason to get the shot is it will reduce the likelihood of missing work of school, with society's strict expectations now that people stay home if sick.

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