Stay clear of influenza

The best way to prevent flu remains immunization

April 28, 2016

Flu symptoms include a feverish feeling or the sudden onset of fever as well as a cough and/or a sore throat. Other common symptoms are: a runny or stuffy nose, head- or body-aches, and chills.

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a common and very contagious infection of monumental importance to public health. Each year approximately 12,000 people in Canada are hospitalized with the flu and another 3,500 die from it.

Contracting the flu virus is as easy as shaking hands with someone who is already infected or by touching a shared surface like a door handle or staircase handrail and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Which is why frequent handwashing is such an important defence mechanism.

According to Dr. Marc Ouellette, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity, getting vaccinated is the safest way to stay healthy during the flu season. In the clip below, Dr. Marc Ouellette shares the scientific community’s anti-flu strategies and offers his best advice on ways to avoid the flu virus and stay healthy.

Flu Vaccine – Interview with Dr. Marc Ouellette

Transcript

Dr. Marc Ouellette
Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity

We asked Dr. Marc Ouellette, Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity, a few questions about the influenza vaccine, also known as the flu vaccine.

First of all, is influenza a real health concern in Canada?

Dr. Marc Ouellette
Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity

Dr. Marc Ouellette: Well, flu is a very important problem in Canada. It comes every year and there are more than 12,000 hospitalizations each year because of influenza, and more than 3,500 Canadians that will die from influenza on a yearly basis. So it's a very important disease.

Why should Canadians get vaccinated to prevent influenza?

Dr. Marc Ouellette: Flu vaccine is important for preventing influenza. This is a proven technology and a proven method. It will protect yourself, if the vaccine is effective, but it will also prevent infection of others. It is good for you and the people around you.

If there are already influenza vaccines, why are CIHR researchers working towards developing a new one?

Dr. Marc Ouellette: The virus will change on a yearly basis. So we need to do surveillance, we need to find the new strains of viruses that will be present. The vaccine of last year may not be effective this year, so research needs to be done. Second, there are strategies to improve the efficacy of the vaccine: the formulation of vaccine, the way of injecting the vaccine, and the role of adjuvants, which are molecules that will improve the immune response. One very important and longer-term aspect is the attempt at generating a universal vaccine for influenza; so, that means you would be vaccinated once and protected for life against all the different strains of influenza.

What are your recommendations to stay clear from influenza?

Dr. Marc Ouellette: First strategy, it would be vaccination, if at all possible. A second strategy that makes consensus would be to wash your hands frequently. Third, sneeze in your sleeve instead of in your hands. A fourth strategy, would be to keep your common surfaces relatively clean, whether it is the computer keyboard, the telephone, etc. That will reduce the rate of infection.

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