We’re well into a colourful fall season, which means that only a few leafs (if any) remain in our trees, NHL season is in full swing and yes, those pesky runny, stuffy nose and sore throat symptoms are beginning to catch us off guard. But is it a cold or a flu that you’re experiencing? How serious can the flu get? What do I need to know about the flu vaccine? Get informed with details, myths and facts about the flu to help you protect yourself and those around you this season.
Influenza (flu) is a viral infection. The term "flu" is often used to describe any kind of mild illness, such as a cold or a stomach virus, which has symptoms like the flu. The real flu is different. The symptoms you experience with the flu are usually worse than a cold and last longer.
Most flu outbreaks happen in late fall and winter. Symptoms may not start for a couple of days, so you may pass the virus to someone before you know you have it.
Myth: Influenza is not a serious illness.
Fact: In years when influenza is widespread in B.C., hundreds of people may die from influenza or its complications, such as pneumonia.
“Seniors over 65, children under 5, pregnant women, Indigenous peoples and people with certain health conditions are more likely to get flu-related complications (like pneumonia) or be hospitalized because of complications,” says Brianna Anderson, occupational health nurse, PHSA. “As healthcare providers and caregivers, we are more likely to spread the flu to those at high risk of complications.”
Myth: I have never had the flu, so I do not need to get an influenza vaccine.
Fact: Most people can get sick with influenza several times during their lives. An influenza vaccine is the best protection against the influenza virus.
Myth: I do not have flu-like symptoms, so I am not at risk of infecting anyone around me.
Fact: Symptoms usually develop 1 to 4 days after you are infected. Because symptoms may not develop for a couple of days, you may pass the flu to someone before you know you have it.
“If you are infected with the flu, you are most likely to pass it to someone else from 1 day before symptoms start to 5 days after symptoms develop,” adds Julie Scott, occupational health nurse, PHSA.
Myth: I have had the flu before, so I do not need to get an influenza vaccine.
Fact: As flu is caused by several viruses, the immunity you naturally developed will only protect you against one of them – you could go on to catch another strain, so it's recommended you have the vaccine even if you've recently had the flu. Also, what you thought was flu could have been something else.
As of Monday, December 3, all staff, volunteers and visitors to PHSA sites must either be vaccinated against the flu or wear a mask in patient care areas.
Visit the PHSA Influenza page
for more information about the flu and how you can protect yourself and those around you.