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Influenza (The Flu) - Frequently Asked Questions

The following are frequently asked questions about Influenza (Flu):

What is the flu?

  • Influenza (commonly known as “the flu”) is a respiratory infection caused by influenza A and B viruses. It should not be confused with "stomach flu" and other illnesses.
  • People of all ages, including the young and healthy, can be affected by the flu.
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How is influenza spread?

  • The flu is spread from infected persons through:
    • coughing
    • sneezing
    • touching surfaces that have been contaminated by an ill person (such as toys, doorknobs, utensils, or unwashed hands) and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

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Who is at risk from complications of the flu?

  • Most us of are at risk of infection with the influenza virus.
  • People at greater risk of complications from flu are:
    • adults and children with certain chronic medical conditions including anemia, asthma, lung, heart and kidney disease, neurologic or neurodevelopment conditions, diabetes, cancer,  weakened immune systems due to disease or medication, and morbid obesity
    • residents of nursing homes and chronic care homes
    • persons 65 years of age and older
    • children under 5 years old
    • pregnant women
    • Indigenous peoples

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How do I protect myself from the flu?

  • Get the flu vaccine to protect yourself and others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds.
  • Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy at work, home and in your car.
  • Cough and sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue, not your hand. Dispose of tissues immediately.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items.

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Where can I get immunized against the flu?

  • The flu vaccine is available from your family doctor and nurse practitioners. Children under 5 years of age must get the flu shot from their doctor.
  • Many pharmacists will be offering flu immunization to those five years of age and older.  Check with your local pharmacist.
  • Many walk-in clinics also offer flu immunization
  • Additional clinics will be held at participating workplaces.  Check with your employer to find out if a flu clinic is being planned at your workplace.

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What are the symptoms of influenza?

  • Typical symptoms include the sudden onset of:
    • fever
    • headache
    • muscle aches and pains
    • fatigue
    • cough
    • loss of appetite
    • runny nose
    • watery eyes
    • throat irritation
  • Children can also get:
    • earaches
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • diarrhea

    Most people recover within a week to ten days, but the cough and fatigue can take much longer to resolve.

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What is the difference between the common cold and influenza?

Colds, vomiting and diarrhea (often referred to as "the stomach flu") and other viral infections are often confused with the flu but different viruses cause them.

Fever Rare Usual, high fever (39°/102°F- 40°C/104°F); sudden onset, lasts 3-4 days
Note: the elderly and people who have a weakened immune system may not develop a fever.
Headache Rare Usual, can be sudden
Muscle aches & pains Sometimes, generally mild Usual, often severe
Tiredness & weakness Sometimes, generally mild Usual, severe, may last 2-3 weeks or more
Extreme Fatigue Unusual Usual, early onset, can be severe
Runny, stuffy nose Common Common
Sneezing Common Sometimes
Sore throat Common Common
Cough/chest discomfort Sometimes, mild to moderate Common, can become moderate to severe. Cough may last for weeks.
Complications Can lead to sinus congestion or infection, and ear aches.*** Can lead to pneumonia, can worsen a current chronic condition, can be life threatening.

*** Colds do not generally result in serious health problems such as pneumonia or bacterial infections

Note: Children may also experience the croup, ear infections, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when they have influenza – symptoms that are not common in adults.

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What should I do if I get the flu?

  • There are several steps you can take in order to help yourself and to help reduce the spread of illness to others:
    • Stay home and avoid contact with others if you do not feel well! If you can, sleep in a separate room from others until you are well.
    • See your family doctor if illness persists or becomes worse, or call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000, TTY 1-866-797-0007 to speak with a registered nurse.
    • Avoid visits to long-term care homes, hospitals and retirement residents if you have been ill or have had contact with someone who is ill. Please help protect frail persons and other individuals at high-risk.
    • Cough into your sleeve or a tissue and not your hands if you have a cough. Dispose of the tissue immediately, and make sure to wash your hands.
    • Clean and disinfect all contaminated surfaces and frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, faucet taps, and toilet handles.
    • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to protect yourself from getting infected. Use an alcohol based hand rub when soap and water are not available.
    • Drink lots of fluid.
    • Get plenty of rest.
    • Take an analgesic (aspirin or acetaminophen) to relieve head and muscle aches.
      • Children and teenagers who have the flu should avoid aspirin unless specifically directed by a physician.

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