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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Did you get your Flu Shot yet?? :D Well, I haven't yet.
Actually, last year was the first time I ever received one.
It was totally unintentional. :eek: It didn't hurt a bit(Asians
are Excellent at giving shots)and I had no reactions from it.

In 2003, I got the Flu so bad that I had to cut my Christmas
vacation short, just so I could come home and be close to my
Hospital since I seriously felt like I was going to kick-off.

Being a Diabetic makes it even worse for us since our immune
systems are lower. Well, I didn't get the Flu last year probably
since I had my Flu Shot. I am planning on getting it(my Shot :D )
again this year. How about you? ;)

Influenza (the "flu")

The Issue

Influenza (or flu) is a common respiratory illness affecting millions of Canadians each year. Getting an influenza vaccination (or flu shot) every year can help prevent the infection or reduce the severity of the illness.


Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Various strains of the virus circulate throughout the world year-round, causing local outbreaks. In Canada, flu season usually runs from November to April and an estimated 10-25% of Canadians may get the flu each year. Although most of these people recover completely, an estimated 4,000 to 8,000 Canadians, mostly seniors, die every year from pneumonia related to flu and many others may die from other serious complications of flu.

The influenza virus spreads through droplets that have been coughed or sneezed into the air by someone who has the flu. You can get the flu by breathing in these droplets through your nose or mouth, or by the droplets landing directly on your eyes. The flu virus is also found on the hands of people with the flu and on surfaces they have touched. You can become infected if you shake hands with infected persons or touch contaminated surfaces and transfer the virus to your own eyes, nose or mouth.

Flu vaccines have been around since the 1940s. The vaccine is made from fragments of inactivated influenza viruses, grown in fertilized hens' eggs and then purified. The flu viruses are capable of changing from year to year, so the composition of the vaccine has to be updated annually. This is why it is necessary to be immunized each fall. About 10 million doses of influenza vaccine are distributed annually in Canada each year during the flu season.

After you get a flu shot, your immune system produces antibodies against the strains of virus in the vaccine. The antibodies are effective for four to six months. When you are exposed to the influenza virus, the antibodies will help to prevent infection or reduce the severity of the illness.

The Health Effects of Influenza

Many people use the terms "flu" or "stomach flu" to describe other illnesses that may actually be a common cold or a mild case of food poisoning. There is no such thing as "stomach flu." A true case of influenza typically starts with a headache, chills and cough, which are followed rapidly by fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and throat irritation. Children may have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but these symptoms are uncommon in adults.

Most people recover within a week or ten days. However, some are at greater risk for more severe and longer-lasting complications, such as pneumonia. The groups at greater risk include very young children, people over 65, and people who already have medical conditions, such as chronic respiratory disease, heart or kidney disease, diabetes or a depressed immune system because of cancer, HIV infection, or some other cause.

Another possible health effect related to the flu is Reye's syndrome, which can develop in children and teenagers who are given salicylates (aspirin) when they have the flu or chickenpox. Reye's syndrome affects the central nervous system and the liver, and can be fatal. Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers with the flu, unless it is specifically directed by a doctor.

Minimizing Your Risk

The most effective way to protect yourself from flu is to be vaccinated each year in the fall.

Flu shots are especially important for:

-children ages 6 to 23 months;
-adults and children with chronic heart and lung disease;
-anyone living in a nursing home or chronic care facility;
-people 65 years of age and older;
-people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, anemia, cancer, immune suppression, HIV or kidney disease;
-children and adolescents on long term acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) therapy;
-health care workers, other caregivers and household contacts capable of transmitting influenza to the above at-risk groups; and
-people at high risk of influenza complications who are traveling to areas where the flu virus is likely to be circulating.
Certain groups should not be vaccinated. These include children under six months of age and people who have had a severe allergic reaction to eggs or a previous dose of the vaccine.

Regular hand washing is another way to help minimize your risk. By washing your hands often, you will reduce your chance of becoming infected after touching contaminated surfaces.

If you get the flu, you should increase the amount of fluids you drink (water, juice, soups) and get plenty of rest for seven to ten days. There are also new medications to treat influenza. If you take them within 48 hours of the start of your symptoms, they may reduce the length of your illness by an average of one or two days.

The Health Effects of Flu Shots

The benefits of flu shots far outweigh the risks. The flu vaccine cannot cause influenza because it does not contain any live virus. The most common side effect is soreness at the site of injection, which may last a couple of days. You might also notice fever, fatigue and muscle aches within six to 12 hours after your shot, and these effects may last a day or two. Some people develop a condition called "oculo-respiratory syndrome" after a flu shot. The symptoms include: red eyes and respiratory effects such as cough, wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, or sore throat. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and disappear within 48 hours.

Severe allergic reactions to flu shots are rare. A rare but possible side effect of influenza vaccination is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). This is an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system and results in weakness and abnormal sensations. But, most patients recover fully. Your chance of developing GBS as a result of a flu shot is one in a million.

The primary reason to get a flu shot is to protect yourself from health effects related to flu and not to spread it to other People.

What is avian influenza or "bird flu"?

Birds and other animals, including pigs, also contract and transmit influenza. Wild birds, in particular, are natural carriers of influenza A viruses. They have carried animal influenza viruses, with no apparent harm, for centuries. Migratory waterfowl (ducks, geese) are known to carry viruses of the H5 and H7 strains or subtypes. These viruses are usually in the low pathogenic form - in other words, they aren't as deadly to birds as highly pathogenic strains.

Currently, avian influenza H5N1 is circulating in South East Asian and parts of Europe, infecting many poultry populations and some humans. This strain is highly pathogenic, or highly deadly to birds, and has infected a limited number of people. There is no evidence this virus is transmitted from person to person.

Why is bird flu a concern for people?

People are exposed to different strains of influenza many times during their lives. Even though the virus changes, their previous bouts of influenza may offer some protection against similar strains of the virus. However, three to four times each century, for unknown reasons, a radical change takes place in the influenza A virus causing a new strain to emerge.

One way this radical change can happen is that a person sick with a human influenza virus also becomes infected with the avian influenza virus and the two viruses re-assort or "mix." This means that the avian influenza virus acquires some of the human influenza genes, potentially creating a new subtype of the influenza A virus that people would have no immunity against. If the virus was easily passed to and among people, this would create the conditions for an influenza pandemic.

There is no pandemic influenza at this time anywhere in the world. However, there were three influenza pandemics in the last century and scientists recognize that another is inevitable. That is why governments are planning to prepare to respond to a possible influenza pandemic. In Canada, we have a plan for responding to an influenza pandemic.
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