Public health officials are reminding Nova Scotians that fluseason is approaching and immunization is the most effective wayto protect against influenza. “Last year’s flu season came early and had a significant impact,”said Dr. Robert Strang, medical officer of health for CapitalHealth. “Each fall we need to remember the importance ofimmunization in protecting people, young and old, from symptomsof the flu, and potentially serious complications.” The Department of Health is providing free vaccine for thefollowing groups at doctors’ offices and community clinics acrossthe province:– people over age 65;– adults and children with chronic heart and lung problems, andother chronic diseases;– anyone living in the same household as people over 65 orpeople with chronic illnesses;– all health-care workers and students in health-careeducational programs; and– police officers and firefighters. Starting this year, the province will also provide the vaccinefree of charge for babies age six months to 23 months. Childrenunder the age of two years are among the most likely to get verysick from the flu and have the same risk of being hospitalizedbecause of influenza, as seniors. “Last year, we had more people vaccinated than in any other yearprevious. I hope this momentum will continue,” said HealthMinister Angus MacIsaac. “The flu vaccine is one of the mosteffective tools this province has to improve health, combatabsenteeism and reduce strain on the health-care system duringthe long winter months.” Nova Scotia’s district health authorities are launching internalcampaigns encouraging their staff and volunteers to be immunized. Because physicians and health-care providers are often infrequent contact with those at risk of contracting the flu, it isimperative that members of this group be vaccinated. “Promoting and supporting flu immunization is important to thedoctors of the province,” said Dr. Maria Alexiadis, president,Doctors Nova Scotia. “It is not only our responsibility to ensurehigh-risk individuals are advised about and offered flu vaccine,we can also be positive role models by being immunized ourselvesand encouraging all health-care workers to be immunized.” Influenza affects the chest, not the stomach. Flu symptomsinclude fever, headache, cough, chills and muscle aches andpains. Vomiting and diarrhea are not caused by the flu. Thesesymptoms are usually caused by a stomach virus or bacteria. A typical flu season in Nova Scotia runs from November to April,sending more than 20,000 people to their doctor. About 2,500people are admitted to hospital during a normal flu season, and400 people die as a result of complications from the virus. Dr. Strang also reassured people that Canada’s supply of fluvaccine is secure, despite shortages in other countries.