Did you decide to skip getting the flu shot this year?
It might be a decision you come to regret – if you haven't already.
This year's flu season is in full swing, and authorities on both sides of the border say the number of influenza cases that have been reported is staggering. The city of Boston has even declared a state of emergency as a result of a high number of flu cases. So far, the city has 700 confirmed cases of the flu and four deaths linked to the virus. Last year, only 70 cases of the flu were confirmed over the entire flu season, according to Boston.com.
Meanwhile, in Canada, the situation is also grim in some areas. Edmonton hospitals are struggling to deal with hospitalizations due to influenza and gastrointestinal illness, according to the Edmonton Journal. The federal government has also announced that the flu season, which hit earlier and more harshly than expected, has resulted in a shortage of Tamiflu, an antiviral drug designed to fight influenza. The government will release some stockpiles of the drug to ease the shortage.
Health officials continue to urge Canadians to get the flu shot – if not to protect themselves, then to prevent vulnerable seniors or those with other health problems from getting the virus. Vulnerable populations can be susceptible to flu-related complications. It's estimated that 2,000 to 8,000 Canadians die each year from the flu.
There are plenty of naysayers out there who claim the flu shot is a waste of time, or worse, will actually cause health issues. But scientific evidence shows that flu shots are about 60 per cent effective in healthy adults. It's not perfect, but it's the best defence available and is vital to protect those vulnerable to the flu.
In the meantime, scientists around the world are continuing their efforts to develop a flu shot that could offer protection for years – even life.