P.E.I.'s chief health officer is encouraging Islanders to take advantage of free flu shots to combat the nasty seasonal illness.

Dr. Heather Morrison stopped by CBC News: Compass to discuss who should get the vaccine, how you can spot the disease and what Islanders can do to help prevent getting it.

Who should get the vaccine?

Morrison recommends everyone get the dead vaccine injection, especially certain "risk groups" such as:

  • Children aged six months to five years old.
  • People with chronic health conditions.
  • People older than 65.
  • Pregnant women.

As for preventative measures, Morrison said there are four particular factors that contribute most to chronic disease: smoking, alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating and a lack physical activity.

How do you know if you have it?

Without having a swab test done, there isn't a sure way to tell if you have the flu.

Early signs and symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, sore muscles and cough.

Morrison

Dr. Heather Morrison says the flu vaccine is not 100 per cent, but 'certainly decreases' your chances of getting the disease and spreading it. (CBC)

"Influenza vaccine is the best thing we have to reduce your chance of getting influenza," she said.

"It's not 100 per cent, but certainly it decreases not only your chance of getting influenza [and spreading it] … but it also decreases your risk of being hospitalized."

Two people died of flu last year

Last flu season, 65 people were hospitalized on P.E.I. Seven were admitted to ICU. Two who had lab-confirmed cases of influenza died. 

The province is offering the flu shot to all Islanders for free this years. Morrison said she hopes that leads to more people getting vaccinated.

Flu vaccination clinics started across the province on Monday and will be held at pharmacies, family physician offices, nurse practitioner offices and more over the next three months across P.E.I.

"It's really wonderful, this year, regardless of which age group, or which chronic condition you may have, you can get the vaccine without having to pay an administration cost wherever you go," she said.

With files from CBC News: Compass