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:
- Muscle pain
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Extreme tiredness
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 defence 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 2018/19 seasonal Influenza Vaccines: Trivalent and Quadrivalent Inactivated Influenza Vaccines (TIIV & QIIV), and Quadrivalent Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV-Q) contain the following strains:
- A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A/Singapore/INFIMH-16-0019/2016 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Colorado/06/2017-like virus
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (in quadrivalent vaccines only)
The A/Singapore and B/Colorado strains were not contained in the 2017/18 season vaccine.
Beginning the week of October 29, 2018, seasonal influenza vaccine will be available at Public Health clinics. Influenza vaccine is recommended for everybody > 6 months of age. To find an Influenza (Flu) Clinic, check out the BC Flu Clinic Finder.
The Influenza Vaccine is recommended and provided free to the following groups:
- People aged 65 years and older
- People of any age who are residents of long-term care facilities
- Adults (including pregnant women) and children with the following chronic health conditions:
- Cardiac or pulmonary disorders (e.g., bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis, asthma)
- Diabetes and other metabolic diseases
- Cancer; immunodeficiency (including human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] infection); immunosuppression due to underlying disease or therapy (e.g. severe rheumatoid arthritis requiring immunosuppressive therapies)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic liver disease, including hepatitis C
- Anemia and hemoglobinopathy
- Conditions that compromise the management of respiratory secretions and are associated with an increased risk of aspiration (e.g. cognitive dysfunction, spinal cord injury, seizure disorder, and neuromuscular disorders)
- Children and adolescents (age 6 months to 18 years) with conditions treated for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid
- Children and adults who are morbidly obese (adult BMI ≥ 40; child BMI assessed as ≥ 95th percentile adjusted for age and sex)
- Aboriginal peoples (on and off reserve)
- Healthy children 6 to 59 months of age
- Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy during the influenza season (typically spanning Nov to Apr)
- Inmates of provincial correctional institutions
- People working with live poultry (immunization may reduce the potential for human-avian re-assortment of genes should such workers become co-infected with human and avian influenza.)
- All health care workers (including all health authority staff, accredited physicians and residents, volunteers, students, contractors, and vendors) who come into contact with patients at health care facilities including long-term care facilities. This includes independent health care practitioners and their staff in community settings.
- Visitors to health care facilities and other patient care locations
- Household contacts (including children) of people at high risk whether or not those high-risk people have been immunized
- Those who provide care and/or service in potential outbreak settings housing high risk persons (e.g., crew on ships)
- Household contacts of healthy children 0 to 59 months of age
- Those providing regular child care to children 0 to 59 months of age, whether in or out of the home
- First responders: police, fire fighters, ambulance
- Corrections workers
Polysaccharide Pneumococcal Vaccine
Pneumococcal vaccine is also available to high-risk individuals (seniors and those with chronic medical conditions) to prevent pneumococcal disease - one of the most common complications of seasonal influenza. Unlike influenza vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine is generally given only one time with a one-time booster for those at higher risk. Please ask your health care provider if you also need this vaccine; if required, influenza and pneumococcal vaccines can be given at the same time.
Polysaccharide Pneumococcal Vaccine is recommended and provided free for:
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Residents of Extended or Intermediate Care Facilities
- Individuals 2 years of age and older with:
- Anatomic or functional asplenia*
- Sickle cell disease
- Immunosuppression related to disease [e.g. malignant neoplasm (including leukemia and lymphoma), HIV, multiple myeloma] or therapy* (e.g. high dose, systemic steroids, or severe rheumatoid arthritis requiring immunosuppressive therapy)
- Congenital immunodeficiency states (e.g. complement, properdin, or factor D deficiency)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic liver disease including cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis B, hepatitis C
- Chronic heart or lung disease (except asthma, unless management involves ongoing high dose oral corticosteroid treatment)
- Receipt of hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT)
- Solid organ or islet cell transplant (candidate or recipient)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Chronic CSF leak
- Cochlear implant (candidate or recipient)
- Homelessness*and/or illicit drug use*
- Chronic neurological conditions that may impair clearance of oral secretions
*For more information on eligibility criteria for Polysaccharide Pneumococcal Vaccine please see BCCDC Immunization Manual, Part 4 - Biological Products.
Revaccination with pneumococcal vaccine is not routinely recommended.
However, a ONE TIME ONLY booster dose of vaccine is recommended for people with one of the first six medical conditions listed above. This booster should be given five years after the first dose (with the exception of the HSCT recipients, who’s post transplant vaccination schedule is quite complex and is based on BC Centre for Disease Control Immunization for Special Populations guidelines). See BCCDC Immunization Manual, Part 2 - Immunization of Special Populations.
For more information visit: Immunize Canada