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Flu (Influenza)

The flu (also known as influenza) is a contagious infection of the nose, throat and lungs. It is caused by the influenza A and B viruses and while certain people are more at risk, it can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages. The flu is one of the leading causes of death in Canada each year. Below you will find more information about the flu and how to protect yourself and your family. 

 

Flu Vaccine

Signs and Symptoms

How does the flu spread?

Who is most at risk?

How can I protect myself?

Cold vs. Flu

Healthcare providers


Flu Vaccine - Your Best Defense

Who can get the vaccine

The flu vaccine is free and is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. 

Where to get the flu vaccine

While the Health Unit does not offer community flu vaccine clinics, the vaccine is widely available at the following locations:

  • primary care provider offices (family doctors, nurse practitioners, pediatricians)
  • walk-in clinics
  • participating pharmacies (for individuals 5 years of age and older)
  • some workplaces

Before getting the flu vaccine

  • Call your selected location ahead to make sure the flu vaccine is available and see if an appointment is needed.
  • If you are having trouble finding somewhere to get your flu vaccine, try calling a few other places. The vaccine is delivered in batches and locations will receive more when they run out
 

The Story of Influenza

Infographic: The Story of Influenza

Enlarge image →

 

Getting the flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic

The flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID-19 or increase your risk of COVID-19 illness. Some of the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the flu and it may be hard to tell the difference. Getting the flu vaccine may help lessen the strain on the health care system during a busy time.

Do not leave your home to get the flu vaccine if you are not feeling well. Take the COVID-19 self-assessment to determine next steps.

Flu vaccine for seniors

Adults age 65 years and older are at high risk of flu complications. Adults in this age group have the option to get one of two vaccines:

  1. Standard dose flu vaccine - protects against four strains of flu virus OR
  2. High dose flu vaccine - protects against three strains of flu virus, but in higher doses

Both of these vaccines will be available at pharmacies, primary care providers offices and walk-in clinics.

Do not delay getting a flu vaccine to wait for a certain type. The most important thing is for you to get protected with whatever flu vaccine is available.

Flu vaccine for individuals without an Ontario Health Card

  • Contact pharmacies if you are visiting Ontario or do not yet have an Ontario Health Card. They may be able to give you the flu shot
  • Children under five years of age cannot get the flu vaccine at a pharmacy. Call the Health Unit at 519-663-5317 to discuss other options

FluMist

FluMist, the nasal spray vaccine, is available in limited quantities this flu season for individuals age 2-59 years old. Call your primary care provider, walk-in clinic or pharmacy (for individuals age 5 and older) to see if they have the nasal spray vaccine. 


Signs and Symptoms of the flu

People with the flu can have mild to severe symptoms, including:

  • fever
  • cough
  • headache 
  • muscle aches
  • chills
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness
  • sore throat
  • nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (especially in children)

How does the flu spread?

The flu spreads easily from infected people to others through droplets made when coughing, sneezing and talking. These droplets can then land in the mouths, noses or eyes of others nearby.

It can also be spread by touching unwashed hands, contaminated surfaces such as toys, doorknobs and eating utensils and then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes. 

It can take a day or even a week to develop the flu after being infected with the virus. People with the flu can spread it to others even before they start to feel sick. 


Who is most at risk?

Most people who get the flu will recover in a week to 10 days, but some people are at higher risk of severe and life threatening complications like pneumonia and worsening of medical conditions they already have.

People who have a higher risk to complications from the flu and needing to go to the hospital include:

  • babies and children under 5 years old
  • pregnant women
  • Indigenous people
  • adults over age 65
  • people with chronic health conditions
  • people who live in long-term care homes and other chronic-care facilities

How can I protect myself from the flu?

Healthy habits can protect you and your family from getting the flu and spreading it at home, work and school. To stay healthy and prevent the spread of the flu, follow these easy tips:

1. Get the flu shot

The flu vaccine is your best defense against getting the virus and spreading it to others. The vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.

2. Wash your hands

Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Hands should be cleaned after handling tissues, blowing your nose, shaking hands, touching objects around you and before preparing and eating food.

3. Stay home if you feel sick

Employees should check with their employer for return to work procedures and parents should check with their child's school/child care centre. 

4. Cover your cough or sneeze (PDF)

Cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Always clean your hands after coughing or sneezing.

5. Keep your distance

Avoid shaking hands and close contact with people who are sick. 


What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

Symptoms of the common cold and the flu are often very similar. However, colds do not generally result in serious health problems such as pneumonia or bacterial infections.

Please note: Children may also experience croup, ear infections, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when they have the flu. These symptoms are not common in adults.

Symptom

Cold

 Flu

Fever

Rare

Usual; high fever (102 ° F/39 ° C - 104 ° F, 40 ° C), sudden onset, lasts 3 to 4 days.

Headache

Rare

Usual; can be severe

Muscle aches and pains

Sometimes, generally mild

Usual; often severe

Tiredness and weakness

Sometimes, generally mild

Usual; severe, may last up to 2 to 3 weeks

Extreme tiredness

Unusual

Usual; early onset, can be severe

Runny, stuffy nose

Common

Common

Sneezing

Common

Sometimes

Sore throat

Common

Common

Chest discomfort, coughing

Sometimes, mild to moderate

Usual, can become severe.

Complications

Can lead to sinus congestion or infection, and ear aches.*

Can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure, and become life-threatening. Can worsen a chronic condition.

Prevention

Frequent hand washing

Annual immunization and frequent hand washing

If you have questions about the flu and would like to speak to a Public Health Nurse, please call 519-663-5317.

 
Date of creation: February 27, 2013
Last modified on: December 13, 2020