Flu shots offer some protection to potential pandemic


As fall approaches, so does flu season.

This year there is even more concern of transmittable diseases, with the World Health Organization and health experts around the world talking about the risk of a pandemic.

That’s why getting the flu vaccine for hospital staff, who are at a greater risk of infection than most, is more important than usual.

“We’re certainly promoting the value of getting the flu vaccine,” says Tricia Root, Manager of Infection Control and Prevention at Rouge Valley Health System.

“While it won’t provide absolute protection from a potential pandemic, the vaccine will offer some protection and reduce the severity should a person get the latest strain.”

The flu strain that health experts around the world are talking about is H5N1, which is commonly called the bird flu. There have been cases of bird to human transmission, especially in southeastern Asia, but human to human is rare.

Asian countries and Russia have already slaughtered millions of migrating birds and chickens, which carry the flu, as a measure to diminish the risk of a pandemic.

“That is the big concern. If human to human transmission occurs, we will see this pandemic on a scale we haven’t seen since the Spanish flu,” Root says.

Those who worked through SARS, know the fear and added stress of dealing with an outbreak of a fatal flu-like disease. But SARS pales compared to anything that approaches pandemic proportions. A pandemic is a worldwide outbreak of a disease or one prevalent throughout an entire country or continent.

More death than word warIn 1919, when men came home from the First World War, along with their exhilaration for their families, girlfriends and wives, they unwittingly brought home the Spanish Flu pandemic. During the next two years, a fifth of the world’s population was infected. The Spanish Flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza, which usually kills the elderly and children. It infected 28 per cent of all Americans. An estimated 50,000 Canadians and 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the First World War. Around the world it is estimated 25 million died of the so-called Spanish Flu, which experts figure originated from China.

At that time, it took more than a year for the pandemic to sweep North America, aided greatly by the soldiers return home. Today, with intercontinental air travel being common such a pandemic could sweep countries much more quickly.

Get your free shotNo one is certain when there will be a pandemic of similar force, but being vigilant will be our best defense.

Infection Control and Occupational Health will be offering free flu-shot clinics at both RVAP and RVC. The shots will also be available during night shifts. Dates and locations will be promoted. Please do your part and get your flu shot.