Influenza (the flu)
- Influenza is a virus that affects the lungs and can cause serious illness especially in young children and the elderly.
- Causes an average of 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada each year.
- Easily spread (e.g. coughing, sneezing, shaking hands).
- Symptoms include: sudden high fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, tiredness and loss of appetite.
- Upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur, especially in children.
- The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the spread of influenza.
Everyone Should Get a Flu Vaccine
- Everyone, six months or older, should get a flu vaccine each year. Even healthy people can spread the flu virus if they are not vaccinated.
- Children under nine years of age who never had a flu vaccine need two doses given four weeks apart.
- Pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers should get a flu vaccine. Talk to your doctor.
- High Priority People (see below)
High Priority People have a greater risk of serious complications or hospitalization if they get sick with the flu, which include:
- Pregnant women
- Those with chronic health conditions such as:
- Heart, kidney, or lung/respiratory problems, obesity
- Diabetes and other metabolic diseases
- Cancer or conditions that lower the immune system including treatment, talk to your doctor
- Anemia or blood diseases
Children aged six to 59 months
- Children and teens who have had long term treatment with aspirin.
- People 65 or older
- People with neurologic or neurodevelopment conditions.
- People who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
- Indigenous peoples
Other people are considered high risk if they may easily pass the flu virus to those at risk for serious complications or hospitalization, and include:
- Health care workers and other care providers.
- Those who live with high priority people.
- Those who live with or take care of children aged zero to 59 months of age.
Those who live with pregnant women who are expecting a newborn during the flu season.
Those who provide services within closed settings to those at risk (e.g. crew on a ship).
- People who provide essential community services (EMS, firefighters, police).
- Those in direct contact with avian flu-infected poultry during the slaughtering process.
Some People Should
Not Get a Flu Vaccine
- People under six months of age.
- People who have had a serious reaction to a flu vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine.
- People with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome (muscle pain and weakness, or loss of muscle function) within six weeks of a previous flu vaccine.
- People with a history of Oculo-respiratory syndrome with lower respiratory symptoms (wheeze, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, throat constriction or difficulty swallowing) within 24 hours of a previous flu vaccine, should see their doctor before getting the vaccine.
The Flu Vaccine Should Be
Delayed for Some People
- People who have a serious illness should wait until they are better before getting the vaccine. People who have a mild illness can get the vaccine even if they have a fever.
The Flu Vaccine is Safe
- You may have soreness, redness and swelling where the needle went in. Fever, headache or tiredness may also occur.
- Serious reactions to the vaccine are rare (e.g. hives, swelling of the mouth or throat or trouble breathing).
When should I call my doctor?
Serious reactions after vaccination are very rare. Get immediate medical help if you/your child have any unusual symptoms such as:
- Swelling in your face, mouth or throat and/or hives.
- Trouble breathing, hoarseness or wheezing.
- Fever above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees F).
- Convulsions or seizures
- Other serious reactions to the vaccine.
You know best. If you notice anything that is not normal after a vaccination, check with your healthcare provider.
What if I decide not to be immunized?
The influenza vaccine is highly recommended. Choosing not to be immunized or delaying immunization puts you at risk of getting sick with the flu or experiencing serious complications from the flu.
Since this flu season will be quite different from previous years, it's even more important to get vaccinated for the following reasons:
- Individual protection against influenza
- Decreased burden on the healthcare system
- Decreased illness that could be confused with COVID-19, and decreased need for COVID-19 testing
- Decreased chance of co-infection in individuals (influenza and COVID-19) and outbreaks with both viruses