What is Influenza (Flu)?

Influenza is a highly contagious, common respiratory illness that affects millions of Canadians every year. Influenza season generally starts in November and lasts until April. Anyone can get influenza, but for some people it can be serious or even life threatening. Getting an annual influenza vaccination can help prevent an infection or reduce the severity of the illness.


How is it spread?

The influenza virus spreads through droplets that have been coughed or sneezed into the air by someone who has influenza. The flu virus is also found on the hands of people with the flu and on surfaces they have touched. You can become infected if you shake hands with infected persons or touch contaminated surfaces and transfer the virus to your own eyes, nose or mouth.


How do I know if I have it?

The symptoms of influenza may include a sore throat, cough, runny nose, fever, chills, fatigue, headache, body aches and pains. Influenza can result in serious complications such as pneumonia, kidney failure and a variety of nervous system disorders, in some cases these complications are life-threatening. It is estimated that each year 5,000 Canadians die from influenza and pneumonia.


Can I protect myself from getting the flu?

YES! An influenza vaccination each year in the fall is the single most effective means of preventing or minimizing the disease. Some adults and children are at greater risk of getting flu-related complications, and should receive the vaccine.  This includes those with:

  • Chronic heart, lung or kidney disorders
  • Diabetes, asthma, severe chronic anemia, cancer or other  chronic illness
  • Persons age 65 years of age or older
  • Children and adolescents (6 months to 18 years) with conditions treated for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid (ASA)

Most people have little or no reaction to the vaccine. For those persons who do, the side effects are mild and may include soreness where the shot was given. A few persons report a fever and muscle ache within 1 or 2 days. Influenza vaccine should not be given to anyone with a serious allergy to any component of the vaccine, except for egg, or anyone who has had a previous serious reaction to the vaccine in the past. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) indicates that egg allergy is not a contraindication for influenza vaccination and that egg-allergic individuals may be vaccinated against influenza using the full dose of any age-appropriate product.


What should I do if I get the Flu?

  • Stay at home until fever-free for 24 hours
  • Practice good hand washing (soap and water for at least 15 seconds)
  • Practice respiratory etiquette - cough or sneeze into your sleeve or use a tissue
  • Rest and take extra fluids


This page provides basic information only. It must not take the place of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to a health care professional about any health concerns.


For Further Information

Call the Infectious Disease Program: (807) 625-5900

or toll-free 1-888-294-6630

Health Topic
Diseases & Infections