With the weather getting colder, respiratory illnesses are on the rise. Once again, Staff Wellness, Student Wellness Services and the Students’ Union are partnering up to offer flu shot clinics for students, faculty and staff on UCalgary campuses, from Oct. 16 to Nov. 7. The process to get a free flu shot on campus is simple:
- Register online to get a barcode (print or save the barcode).
- Book an appointment to save time and/or walk in to one of the on-campus flu shot clinics with your barcode
Although it is hard to predict the severity of this flu season, experts look at what countries in the southern hemisphere have experienced during their flu season to see what we can possibly expect.
“Looking at numbers from Australia, we saw that the flu hit early and harder than usual in the first few weeks of their flu season. As the season progressed these number dropped a bit,” says Dr. Craig Jenne, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.
“Overall, this year was a little worse than the 10-year average but not as bad as the severe flu seasons.”
Getting the annually updated flu shot is the best protection against severe illness. It prepares the immune system and helps to fight against the community spread of the flu.
“The flu virus is a professional shape-shifter. Every time the virus replicates, there is an opportunity for the virus to mutate,” explains Jenne. “As a result, it looks different every year. Our previous immunity, whether from a previous flu shot or illness recovery, offers less immunity against the ‘new’ version of the virus. That is why an updated vaccine is needed every year.”
Flu shot efficacy can vary from year to year, and even vary within a given flu season, but it still offers excellent protection against severe disease. You might still get infected and experience a ‘mild flu,’ but the risk of severe illness or hospitalization is dramatically reduced.
“It is also important to highlight that the flu shot offers protection beyond the common symptoms of the flu,” says Jenne. “Emerging data have shown that severe flu infection in people with underlying risk conditions can trigger other health problems such as heart attacks and stroke. This risk is significantly reduced in vaccinated individuals.”
Flu shots are the most effective tool in preventing severe illness but the little things we do in our everyday life are also important to protect yourself and limit the spread.
- Get enough sleep, good nutrition, stay hydrated and reduce stress
- Wash your hands frequently
- Wear an appropriate, good-fitting mask in crowded indoor spaces
- Stay home when you are not feeling well
“The best protection is a comprehensive plan, combining vaccination with some simple common-sense choices,” says Jenne. “That way we can safely and comfortably navigate another flu season in Alberta.”
For all clinic dates, locations and more information, visit the UCalgary’s Flu Shot Clinics web page.