Despite the recent spate of good weather, there's no denying it: winter is on its way, and with it, flu season.
An estimated 10 to 25 per cent of people are infected with the flu each year, most of them during "flu season" - roughly running from the start of November till the end of April.
Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, medical health officer with the Fraser Health Authority, says they are once again encouraging everyone to get a flu shot - and that includes those who claim they "never get sick" and therefore don't need it, she says.
"We'd really like to see everybody over the age of six months get a flu shot ... but there are people who are at particular risk, and those are the very young, the very old, pregnant women and those with underlying medication conditions, and those who care for anyone in those categories," she said. "There are people who say 'I never get influenza' - what they really mean is that they have never felt the effects of it (but) they still transmit it to people who are vulnerable."
Brodkin notes some people won't even realize they have the flu virus because their symptoms are so mild - but they can still pass that virus on to someone they interact with like a small child or elderly parent, who will potentially be much more significantly impacted.
It's estimated that it costs the health care system $1,000 per day for those who end up in the hospital as a result of the flu.
Brodkin notes that many people qualify for free vaccine (see sidebar for more information.) Last year more than 285,000 flu shots were provided to B.C. residents who qualified for them.
"Not everyone is eligible for publicly funded (flu vaccine) but most people can find themselves on that list," she notes.
Alternatively, many doctors offer vaccines for a small fee. Additionally, she notes, there are a growing number of pharmacists who have been trained and certified to deliver the flu vaccine in B.C. pharmacies.
"The flu season really gets going in November and December ... so get the vaccine as soon as it's available. It takes 10 days to two weeks for it to be (effective.)"
The World Health Organization determines which flu strains will be included in each year's shots.
"At the moment, there is nothing to suggest that this flu season is unusual or challenging the way the H1N1 was," says Brodkin. "But there are many strains of flu virus and each year the WHO takes a look at the strains that are causing the most disease worldwide and ... they decide on the composition of the next year's flu vaccines."
The vaccine itself is then manufactured in Canada and sent out across the country.
"We have already started to deliver to health care facilities and doctors," notes Brodkin.
She notes that the health authority will send nurses to large public facilities to run clinics for people who live and work in those places, but they don't run such clinics in private businesses.
However, many companies - especially those with large numbers of staff - will bring in a private nurse and the health authority can supply them with vaccine for those who qualify for publicly funded shots; the remainder can be purchased.
For more on flu clinics, including locations in New Westminster and in neighbouring Burnaby, and more information on the vaccine itself, see www.fraser health.ca or go to www.immunizebc.ca.