The cold and flu season is arriving in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and health care officials want the public to get their flu shots.
Flu vaccinations are now available. Fraser Health is anticipating they will be more popular this year than ever, the health authority has ordered more than 600,000 doses, and the first shipments have arrived.
People will more often be wondering whether to send their kids to school, or whether to take a day off work, if they are coughing or have a fever.
“It is difficult to distinguish the symptoms of flu and COVID-19, because often they can look the same,” said medical health officer Dr. Ariella Zbar.
She said there will be a number of factors to be considered, such as travel history, contact with a confirmed COVID patient and severity of symptoms, to determine whether or not to get tested for COVID-19.
The Fraser Health website has a link to the self assessment tool that will be helpful at bc.thrive.health/covid19/en, and she advises people also call 8-1-1 to help determine whether they should get tested.
Zbar said the prevention measures already in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19 can also be expected to help stop people from catching the flu. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, maintain a two metre physical distance from other, wear a mask in public and stay home when you get sick, she said.
“COVID sense makes flu sense,” she said. “In general, if you are feeling sick, as with the flu season, it’s a good idea to stay home.”
She noted much of the population can receive publicly funded flu shots:
• Seniors 65 and over
• Children under 5
• Pregnant women
• People with pre-existing medical conditions or compromised immune systems
• Indigenous people
• Those at live or work with those at risk of complications from the flu
The vaccination is available from family doctors, at walk-in clinics or pharmacies. See the BC Flu Clinic Locator online.
She suggests people who are not eligible for a free vaccine to call their pharmacist or travel clinic to book a flu shot. Many immunizers are asking that people book an appointment to get a flu shot in order to ensure physical distancing is maintained.
Zbar said the flu season in the southern hemisphere has been a reliable predictor of the flu season Canadians will experience, and there was much lower incidence of flu than in previous seasons. Health officials say the low rates in countries such as Australia are likely due to COVID-19 precautions.