Photo: Kosalan Kathir

The flu shot and you

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By Madison Henry 

The weather is getting a little warmer in Toronto, but the flu is still in peak season at Ryerson. The federal government publishes weekly influenza reports and according to them, influenza B started circulating much earlier than usual and “the number of detections remain substantially greater this season compared to previous years.”

While 18.7 per cent of students reported that having a cold, sore throat or the flu affected their individual academic performance, few students get the shot. Only 29.2 per cent of students reported that they received vaccinations, according to the spring 2016 Ryerson University Executive Summary of the National College Health Assessment II.

However, Kate Hood, a first year urban planning student gets the shot every year.

“After having pneumonia four years ago, I’m at greater risk for catching the flu and as a result I have had a flu shot every year since. Sometimes I feel a little sick the next day, but after that I’m fine, and do not catch the flu later on,” she said.

The two strains of influenza that cause seasonal diseases (such as the flu) are A and B. The strain that’s causing the most trouble this year is H3N2 which is a strain of influenza A. This strain is known for causing severe infections and sending people to the hospital. Researchers are not quite sure why the H3N2 strain is more severe than B strands such as H1N1.

This uncertainty raises questions about how vaccines are made and how effective they are once created.

Juannittah Kamera the Health Promotion Programs Coordinator at Ryerson said effectiveness of flu vaccines are difficult to determine since the dominant strains are not evident at the beginning of the season. However, health authorities will track causes throughout the season.

“The effectiveness of the seasonal vaccine is tracked by health authorities throughout the flu season.  Based on surveillance of flu cases reported to them by health practitioners [such as] doctors and hospitals, they are able to determine which strains are prevalent and made people severely sick then compare them to the strains that are in that season’s vaccine to determine how effective it was,” she said.

Despite the difficulties in creating a perfect vaccination, Kamera still highly recommends getting the flu vaccine every year.

“Vaccines have been shown to be an effective preventive measure in reducing the occurrence or severity of impact of the flu. Receiving the vaccine can lessen the impact of the flu making it something that you can treat and manage at home and reduces the need for hospital visits,” she said.

“Aside from protecting the person that is vaccinated, they also serve to protect those members of society who might not be able to receive the vaccine for some reason (age, immune-compromised, chronic health conditions) and would be at risk for serious or devastating consequences should they contract the flu.”

Still looking to protect yourself again the flu? Ryerson’s Medical Centre offers free flu shots so everyone can keep themselves healthy this flu season.

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