Influenza, often called “the flu,” is an upper respiratory infection (nose throat and lungs) caused by an influenza virus. It spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or face-to face contact. People often use the term “flu” to describe other illnesses such as the "stomach flu" or the common cold which are different illnesses, caused by other pathogens.
Influenza symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, extreme tiredness, and cough. Children may also experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Although these symptoms are similar to the common cold, symptoms caused by influenza tend to be more severe and last longer (7-10 days).
Influenza is not always a harmless illness. It can cause serious health risks including death. A person with influenza is also at risk of other infections, such as bacterial or viral pneumonia (an infection of the lungs). Every year, about 1,400 people in B.C. die from influenza and complications of influenza, such as pneumonia. The peak of the influenza season is traditionally November to April. Your best protection from getting and transmitting influenza is the influenza vaccine.
During the influenza season, residents who are at risk are advised to get their free influenza vaccine. Influenza vaccine (available through your local health unit, pharmacist, and your family doctor), along with good personal hygiene, including effective hand washing, provides the best defense against contracting and spreading the influenza virus. If you do find yourself sick with influenza, you can help protect others from getting ill by observing safe cough etiquette, staying home and resting, drinking plenty of fluids and managing your symptoms. Visit HealthLinkBC for Facts about Influenza (the Flu).
About the vaccine:
The 2015/16 seasonal trivalent influenza vaccines contain the following strains:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A/Switzerland/9715293/2013(H3N2)-like virus
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus(quadrivalent vaccines only)
The A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 and B/Phuket/3073/2013 strains were not contained in the 2014/15 season vaccine; the B/Brisbane/60/2008-like strain was contained in the quadrivalent but not trivalent vaccines in the 2014/15 season.