With October fast approaching, Brantford and Laurier health centres are preparing for the flu season.
“The flu lasts about 7-10 days, it potentially shuts a person down for a week or two,” said Richard Hesch, a public health nurse with the Brant County Health Unit’s Vaccine Preventable Disease Program. “The flu is often confused with other types of illnesses that are very contagious. It is much more severe than a cold. You’re looking at a severe respiratory illness. It hits you fast, and it hits you really hard.”
It has become increasingly important that students take proper precautions to help reduce the spread of this year’s virus, said Hesch. Especially after Brantford became one of the first, and hardest hit communities during the 2012-2013 flu season.
10-15 per cent of adults, and 20-30 per cent of children in Canada will contract the flu annually, and there are a significant number of people who develop flu related complications like pneumonia. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, approximately 20,000 people in Canada are hospitalized and approximately 8,000 die due to flu related complications each year. “Your number one prevention is the vaccine,” said Hesch, “Some protection is better than not having any protection at all, and the vaccine is 70% effective. We don’t want you to miss school or pass it onto friends and family.”
“College students are at risk because they’re in a confined space,” said Dr. Eugene Jarrell of Laurier Brantford’s student Wellness Centre. 36, 500 immunizations were distributed to the Brantford community last year, which was “much lower than it has been in the past,” Dr. Jarrell said.
Alongside getting the vaccine, Dr. Jarrell suggested students be more aware of flu hygiene, “We realize students are on a budget, but don’t reuse your Kleenex.”
Hesch also noted specific risks involved with university life. “Universities are a prime environment to be sharing the flu virus with things like shared desks in lecture halls. Cough into your sleeve by the elbow and don’t touch your face. Make sure you’re eating healthy and you need to get lots of sleep, which is really tough in university, but getting 8 hours a night will keep you healthy.”
Flu vaccinations are free and available to everyone in Canada over the age of 6 months. To register for one of the community clinics run by the Brant County Health Unit visit www.bchu.org. The Laurier Brantford Wellness Centre will also begin student flu clinics in mid-October.