Flu shots can save lives

Nov 03, 2005, vol. 34, no. 6
By Jennifer Gardy

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Students and staff in Fiona Brinkman's lab will be rolling up their sleeves this November for their annual flu vaccination. A strong believer in the importance of immunization, Brinkman sees the $15 she pays for each shot as an investment.

“It prevents lost productivity,” says Brinkman, an assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. “I avoid multiple people in my research group calling in sick for two weeks.”

“I also want them to appreciate how important I feel this issue is,” she adds, “and get them in the habit of getting a flu shot every year.”

In British Columbia alone, more than 1,400 people die annually from flu or flu-related complications. Many of these deaths are preventable through vaccination, which is estimated to be up to 90 per cent effective at preventing the flu in healthy individuals.

Vaccination is especially important in the university environment, Brinkman notes.
“Campuses and other places students frequent are great locales for outbreaks, since flu spreads readily through large populations congregating in small areas.”

“My worry, however, isn't actually the students. They may transmit the bug to an elderly relative, young child, or other person for whom flu may prove fatal. By controlling flu on campus, we could save many lives while keeping students healthy and active too.”
SFU's health counselling and career centre will be offering flu clinics for students, faculty and staff from Nov. 4-29.

Each shot costs $15, however free vaccinations are available for eligible patients, including those in household contact with children less than 23 months of age or immunocompromised individuals.

While vaccination offers the best protection against the virus, other precautionary measures can reduce the chance of infection.

Because the virus can persist on surfaces for up to two days, frequent hand washing with soap and warm water is strongly recommended. Keeping in shape through healthy eating, physical activity and adequate rest also bolsters your natural defences.

A common misconception surrounding the influenza vaccine is that it contains live virus and can result in a mild case of flu.

In fact, the vaccine consists of dead virus and while some people do experience minimal side effects, these are by-products of our body's immune response.

Vaccination is recommended for most adults - including pregnant women - and children over 6 months. Individuals who are allergic to eggs or who have had a severe reaction to the vaccine in the past are advised to consult their doctor before considering a flu shot.

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