Public Health Reminder: Seasonal Flu
Why You Should Take Note
Seasonal influenza (the flu) is a serious illness that infects millions of Canadians every year. It is a common infectious respiratory disease that begins in the nose and throat. It is highly contagious and can spread rapidly from person to person. Flu cases result in approximately 12,000 hospitalizations and, on average, 3,500 deaths in Canada each year.
Influenza typically starts with a headache, chills and cough. Those are quickly followed by fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and fatigue, running nose, sneezing, watery eyes and throat irritation. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur, especially in children.
Most people will recover from the flu within a week or ten days, but some are at greater risk of developing more severe complications such as pneumonia.
Who is Most at Risk
Some people are more likely to get seriously ill if they catch the flu, including:
- Children and adults (including pregnant women)with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disorders, diabetes, cancer, immune compromising conditions, kidney disease, blood disorders, conditions that make it difficult to swallow properly;
- People with morbid obesity (with a body mass index greater than 40);
- Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities;
- People 65 years of age and older;
- Healthy children 6 months to 5 years of age;
- Aboriginal Peoples; and
- Healthy pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy.
How to Avoid Getting the Flu
The seasonal influenza vaccine is safe and effective and remains the best protection against influenza viruses. Everyone over the age of six months is encouraged to get it.
It is especially important for those who are more likely to get seriously ill or suffer complications if they catch the flu. Getting the flu shot every year is important because the vaccine is reformulated annually to protect against the most current strains of the virus. This year's flu shot protects against specific H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A viruses and one strain of influenza B virus that are expected to make people sick this winter.
Flu shots are also highly recommended for:
- Those in close contact with individuals at high-risk for complications (e.g. health care workers, household members, and those providing child care to children up to five years of age;
- Those who provide services within closed or relatively closed settings to persons at high risk (e.g. crew on a ship);
- People who provide essential community services including emergency medical responders such as paramedics, police and firefighters; and
- People in direct contact during culling operations with poultry infected with avian influenza.
In addition to getting the flu shot, you can protect yourself and your family from infection during flu season by taking the following steps:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
- Cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hand. If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands;
- If you get sick, stay home;
- Keep your hands away from your face;
- Keep common surface areas – for example, doorknobs, light switches, telephones and keyboards – clean and disinfected; and
- Eat healthy foods and stay physically active to keep your immune system strong.
Learn more by getting a copy of the Flu Prevention Fact Sheet by visiting http://www.fightflu.ca
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