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VERNON OICKLE: This and that

The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) recommends people six months of age and older get vaccinated against the flu every year.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) recommends people six months of age and older get vaccinated against the flu every year.

Indeed, there is a great deal happening in the world these days. So much so that it boggles the mind.

We face major issues: Global warming, which has spawned massive natural disasters around the world: the threat of possible war in various hot spots around the world; indiscriminate violence and mass shootings that seemingly strike without warning, leaving a swath of death and destruction, and far too many questions.

Clearly, there are no easy answers to these larger, all-encompassing issues, so sometimes it’s easier just to tackle those we can do something about, like those I’m going to address this week.

This: The flu shot

I have heard many people saying they’ve never had a flu shot and they don’t intend to get one this year. There was a time that I, too, took that attitude about receiving the flu shot, but it wasn’t so much that I didn’t necessarily believe in the vacation as it was that I simply hated needles.

Yup. I’ll admit it. I hated needles. In fact, I still do. Who doesn’t? But the simple truth of the matter is that flu shots can save a life. The other consideration is that the influenza vaccine is free and is now available in Nova Scotia.

While I’ve also heard some people say that they don’t get a flu shot because it’s for old or sick people, that simply is not the reality. In fact, Nova Scotians of all ages are encouraged to get the annual influenza vaccine.

“Influenza can have serious complications for many people, including the elderly, children under five years of age and those with chronic health conditions,” says Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health. “Vaccination is a simple, safe and effective way to prevent getting and spreading the virus.”

The vaccine is now available from most pharmacists, family doctors, family practice nurses and nurse practitioners. Many workplaces also offer flu vaccination clinics for employees. Families with children under the age of five can also arrange their vaccination through the local Public Health office.

It can take several weeks to build up full immunity against the influenza virus. Nova Scotians are encouraged to get the vaccine early so they can be protected sooner.

Influenza vaccine is free for all Nova Scotians.

Recently, the CBC reported that an estimated 3,500 Canadians die of the flu each year and 12,200 are hospitalized, making it one of the 10 leading causes of death in this country according to Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), though that’s based on a disputed model, which some believe overstates the numbers.

Last year, there were 3,657 reported hospitalizations and 223 confirmed deaths from the flu, but that doesn’t capture the total number of Canadians who went unreported. However, according to the CBC report, it is known that only 42 per cent of Canadian adults reported getting the flu shot last season, though that was up from 38 per cent in the 2017-18 season and 36 per cent in 2016-17, according to the national Influenza Vaccine Coverage Survey.

Dr. Allison McGeer, a physician and infectious diseases specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto says, “Influenza vaccines are about 50 or 60 per cent effective in protecting you from hospitalization due to influenza. How good are seat belts at protecting you from dying in a car accident? About 50 per cent. How good are smoke detectors at reducing your risk of death in a house fire? About 35 per cent. So, we have this weird double standard that goes on with vaccines.”

In addition to the seasonal vaccine, proper hand washing and covering noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing are also important to prevent the spread of influenza and many other infections. People with influenza symptoms should stay home and minimize close contact with others.

Influenza symptoms often include a sudden high fever, headache, general aches and pains, fatigue and weakness, a runny, stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat. It can lead to more severe illness such as pneumonia or even death.

So simply put, the best defense against the flu is proper personal hygiene and receiving the vaccination. What are you waiting for? Get yours today.

And that: Curbside pickup

I know I must be starting to sound like a broken record to some people because I’ve talked about this issue many times in the past but I feel compelled to bring it up yet again.

I feel that urge because I’m reminded of the issue every fall when I see piles and piles of household items stacked at the roadside waiting for pick up and I can’t help but think someone, somewhere could use these items. I’m also reminded of the frenzy that this type of willy-nilly disposal method can create and I wonder why other municipal units don’t follow the example of Halifax Regional Municipality.

I like the way Halifax tackles this issue. Fully appreciating that people accumulate items that eventually they no longer need or want, Halifax takes a proactive approach. Understanding that these items may be useful to someone else, Halifax designates a specific weekend during which people are encouraged to put out only those items that may still be useful and during that weekend, anyone who needs the items is encouraged to pick it up and take it home.

The key to this project is that only useful items are put at curb side, as opposed to the approach taken by most local municipal units in which everything — useful items and bulk garbage — are placed for pickup. Of course, this method encourages others to root through the piles of items, take what they want and then, leave an unwieldy mess in their wake.

That’s the part that irks me. Let’s be clear here. I don’t care if someone takes something I put out to the garbage, but what I do resent is the mess that is often left behind. I say take whatever you want, but please make sure you don’t leave behind a mess for someone else to clean up.

Of course, this could be easily addressed if local municipal units also designated a specific day or weekend during which only useful items should be placed at the roadside and anyone who can use them is encouraged to take whatever they want. Garbage is left for another pickup day and anyone caught looting at that time will be fined.

Problem solved and everyone should be happy, and that’s the view from here.

Vernon Oickle writes The View From Here column, which appears weekly in the South Shore Breaker. He can be reached at vernon.l.oickle@Eastlink.ca.

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