VICTORIA – As of Dec. 1, 2015, people who have not had a flu shot this season are asked to wear a mask when visiting provincial health-care facilities to help protect those at-risk of influenza. Provincial health-care facilities include hospitals, long-term care homes, public health units and outpatient clinics.
Each year, there are approximately 3,500 deaths from the flu and its complications in Canada. Hospitalized patients and seniors in residential care and assisted living are more vulnerable to influenza than healthy adults. People infected with the flu are highly contagious and can spread the virus for 24 hours before they even realize they are sick.
Visitors join all health authority employees, students, physicians, residents, contractors, vendors and volunteers in helping to protect those at risk by choosing to vaccinate or mask, as part of B.C.’s comprehensive influenza prevention strategy. Visitors will be asked to comply with this policy on the honour system.
The flu vaccine is free to people intending to visit a health-care facility and is available at public health clinics, physicians’ offices, travel clinics and pharmacies. It is also free in B.C. for children between the ages of six months and five years, seniors 65 years and older, pregnant women and Aboriginal people, as well as individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems and their household contacts and caregivers.
As well, the nasal spray flu vaccine is provided free at public-health clinics and physicians’ offices to children two to 17 years of age who are at risk of serious illness from influenza or who live with someone who is at risk.
While the best way for visitors to protect those in health-care facilities is to get vaccinated, masks will be available, free of charge, for those who have not been vaccinated.
The influenza vaccine is safe and effective at preventing illness when used in conjunction with other infection control practices, such as hand washing and remaining home when sick.
For more information about influenza and vaccination clinics, visit: www.immunizebc.ca