As flu season approaches, the Marathon Family Health Team is strongly encouraging community members to get their flu shot. Just like last year, there is the potential of having two viruses circulating in our communities this fall and winter (the influenza/flu virus and the COVID-19 virus). Getting the flu shot can help further prevent the spread of illness in our communities.
Last year, very few cases of influenza were reported compared to previous years. This was a result of the public health measures that were put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including physical distancing, masking and lockdowns. Now that the province has lifted some of the public health measures, it leaves a potential for more flu activity during this flu season, which makes getting the flu vaccine more important than ever.
Although the flu is an illness that is mostly a nuisance, it can unfortunately be a serious illness for some, including the elderly, children, pregnant people, and people with chronic conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, asthma, auto-immune disease). To help protect everyone, especially those who are at high-risk of serious illness from the flu, it is recommended that all individuals over the age of 6 months get a flu shot. Even those who are not at high-risk of serious illness from the flu are advised to get the vaccine because it reduces their chances of getting the flu and spreading it to others.
Symptoms of the flu, which generally last between 7 to 10 days, can include any of the following: fever, chills, cough, runny eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, weakness and tiredness, or vomiting and diarrhea.
You may have noticed that there are many similarities between the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19. So, how are you expected to know the difference between the viruses? The short answer is: you can’t. One benefit of getting the flu shot this year is that it can lower your risk of developing symptoms, including the ones that are similar to those of COVID-19. This can result in less time in self-isolation, less time off work or school and less COVID-19 testing.
Getting the flu shot will also help:
- Keep your immune system working well. Getting the flu weakens your immune system. If you happen to be exposed to COVID-19 while fighting off the flu, it can be even harder for your body to fight off these viruses.
- Reduce the burden on the healthcare system and give healthcare providers greater capacity to care for people with other medical needs. Each year, hospitals get very busy with cases of the flu. Remember that the flu is a serious illness for some people and it can lead to hospitalization. Fewer cases of the flu mean fewer people in the hospitals.
- Reduce your need to access health care facilities. Keeping people out of the hospital, the COVID-19 Assessment Center and clinic will help reduce their risk of being exposed to someone with the influenza or COVID-19 viruses.
Frequently asked questions about the flu shot
Is the flu shot safe? Yes. Hundreds of millions of people have safely received flu vaccines for the past 50 years. The flu shot will not give you the flu. It can make some people sick, but this is not likely. The vaccine contains a form of the flu virus which is not “live” and so it can’t infect you. The flu shot prompts your body to build up its defenses, making you stronger and more resistant to the virus.
Do flu vaccines cause any side effects? The flu vaccine can cause some side effects, such as fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle aches and pains, that are generally mild and go away on their own within a few days. Just like other vaccines and medications, the flu vaccine can also cause other more serious side effects, but this is very unlikely. If you have any concerns about potential side effects, please speak with your healthcare provider.
Do I need a flu shot if I’m fully vaccinated against COVID-19? The COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you from the flu. COVID-19 and influenza are two different illnesses. To best protect yourself and others from getting infected by these viruses, it is recommended to get both the flu and the COVID-19 vaccines.
When should I get the flu shot? It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against the flu. For this reason, it’s best to get vaccinated early in the fall, before flu season begins. Getting the flu soon after receiving the flu shot is not a result of the vaccine; it simply means that you contracted the virus before or shortly after getting vaccinated.
What can I do to avoid the flu? Following the public health recommendations that were put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will also help protect you from the flu (e.g. washing your hands often, wearing a mask, avoiding touching your face, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, etc.). However, the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu is to get the flu vaccine.
What should I do if I have the flu? Stay home and get plenty of rest. In times of COVID-19, getting the flu may also result in a visit to the Assessment Centre and getting tested for COVID-19. If your symptoms get worse or you don’t begin to feel better after a few days, please contact your healthcare provider.
Where can I get my flu shot? Flu shots are available locally through the Marathon Pharmacy (807-229-1670) and the clinic. The clinic will be hosting two community flu shot clinics at the Lakeview Community Hall: one on November 5th and one on November 12th. To book an appointment, please call 807-229-3243 or email [email protected].
Over the last year and a half, you have been encouraged to do many things to help protect yourself and others and we recognize that it has been difficult. Now, we are asking you to consider taking one more step towards preventing the spread of illness in our communities and getting your flu shot.
For more information on the flu shot, please visit the Government of Ontario’s website: https://www.ontario.ca/page/flu-facts.