FREDERICTON (GNB) – The publicly funded seasonal flu vaccine is now available in the province. Provinces received the vaccine somewhat later than usual this year, but it is now being distributed to health-care providers.

“Immunization is the single most effective way of reducing the impact of seasonal influenza, especially for those most at risk of complications, such as seniors and those with medical conditions,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. “I encourage all New Brunswickers to keep healthy this flu season by getting your yearly flu shot. Everyone has a role to play in protecting themselves and those around you.”

Individuals are reminded to:

  • wash their hands often.
  • cough and sneeze into their arms, not their hands.
  • stay at home if they are sick.

Health-care workers are encouraged to get vaccinated and to promote and provide the influenza vaccine to their patients. Each year the strains of seasonal influenza viruses change. As a result, the flu vaccine also needs to change to ensure it protects against the current viruses.

Seasonal influenza typically poses serious health risks to the elderly, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems or other chronic health conditions. This year seasonal influenza vaccine is available for free to the following New Brunswick residents, from a variety of immunization providers:

  • adults and children with chronic health conditions:
    • cardiac or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma);
    • diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases;
    • cancer, immune compromising conditions (due to underlying disease and/or therapy);
    • renal disease;
    • anemia or hemoglobinopathy;
    • neurologic or neurodevelopment conditions. These include seizure disorders, febrile seizures and isolated developmental delay in children and neuromuscular, neurovascular, neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental conditions and seizure disorders in adults, but excludes migraines and neuropsychiatric conditions without neurological conditions;
    • conditions that compromise the management of respiratory secretions and are associated with an increased risk of aspiration;
    • morbid obesity (body mass index greater than 40); and
    • children and adolescents (ages six months to 18 years) undergoing treatment for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid, because of the potential increase of Reye’s syndrome associated with influenza.
  • people of any age who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities;
  • people 65 and older;
  • healthy children six months to 18 years;
  • pregnant women;
  • aboriginal people;
  • those in direct contact with poultry infected with avian influenza during culling operations; and
  • people capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk:
    • household contacts (adults and children) of individuals at high risk of influenza-related complications (whether or not the individual at high risk has been immunized), as listed above;
    • household contacts of infants younger than six months;
    • household contacts of children six months to 59 months;
    • members of a household expecting a newborn during the influenza season.

Health-care workers, including staff of licensed long-term care facilities, are capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk. Influenza vaccine is available for free to these workers as their employer covers the cost of the vaccine and its administration.

All healthy people,19 to 64, who do not have contraindications to influenza vaccine are also encouraged to get it.

While most people will recover within seven to 10 days, the body’s ability to fight the flu is weakened with age, making complications common and more severe. The flu can also worsen existing medical conditions and lead to longer recovery time.

“The flu should not be underestimated as it leads to hospitalizations and deaths every year,” said Russell. “The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is through immunization.”

During the 2018-19 influenza season, there were about 3,008 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza, 619 influenza-related hospitalizations including 106 patients admitted to the intensive care units, and 36 deaths due to illness associated with influenza.

More information is available online, or by contacting your health-care provider.