Influenza

 

Did you know? The flu is very different from the common cold virus. 

A cold will annoy you with runny nose, watery eyes, and throat irritation that disappears in a couple of days… but if you catch the flu the sudden onset of high fever, muscle aches, chills, and extreme fatigue could see you bedridden. Unlike the common cold, flu impacts multiple organs, resulting in a more severe illness with complications that can last for weeks, or even months after symptoms disappear. 

The flu is a highly contagious illness caused by the influenza virus. The influenza virus causes infections of the nose, throat and lungs. In most people, the flu is uncomfortable and tiring, but some people are more at risk for serious complications from the flu, including seniors, young children, and people with long-term lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Flu can make asthma symptoms worse and cause COPD flare-ups.

The flu can be fatal. Each year, regular seasonal flu causes around 4500 deaths in Canada.

Flu is transmitted from person to person in the form of droplets when someone infected coughs or sneezes. A person usually begins showing symptoms one to four days (average is two days) from the time of exposure to the flu virus. Flu is easily spread, especially among certain vulnerable groups: Adults are contagious the day prior to onset of symptoms, and for three to seven days after they first develop symptoms. Children could be contagious for more than a week.

 

 

Don’t forget about flu; It remembers you.

Since 2020, anti-COVID-19 public health measures have also been protecting us from Influenza (flu). In fact, while things like increased hand washing, social distancing, and mask wearing slowed COVID-19 transmission, flu cases were almost totally eradicated! With the easing of public health directives, the flu is set to return. Flu season 2022-23 may come early. 

Holiday travel accelerates flu spread around Thanksgiving, so you should plan to get your shot as soon as it becomes available. If you’re late it’s ok; flu season runs all the way through March.

 

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get Influenza. All New Brunswickers from the age of 6 months+ are encouraged to get vaccinated, but it’s especially important for people at high risk of influenza-related complications (or for those with regular exposure to vulnerable groups.)  

If you have any of the following, influenza can become a serious (even life-threatening) illness:

  • Heart and/or lung disease 
  • Renal problems 
  • Diabetes 
  • Neurological/neurodevelopmental disorders 
  • Cancer or other immune-compromising conditions 
  • Rheumatologic disease 
  • Morbid obesity 
  • Children
  • Over 65 years of age
  • Pregnant people in their 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy during the winter season

Remember, flu season can start as early as October and lasts through to March. Don’t get caught - Talk to your healthcare provider now about which vaccine is right for YOU. 

 

It’s important to know what is myth and what is fact.

Myth: The flu shot will give you the flu.
Fact: Viruses cause flu, not vaccines. It takes about two weeks to build up protection, and some mild symptoms are a normal sign that your body is strengthening its defenses. Because immunity goes down over times, a yearly flu vaccine is the most effective way to reduce your risk.

Myth: Healthy people don’t need vaccines. It isn’t worth the effort because the flu is just a bad cold and only a short-term nuisance.
Fact: Influenza is a leading cause of pneumonia. Within days of infection, your risk of stroke increases up to 8 times, and heart attack risk increases up to 10 times. Flu is highly contagious, but did you know that infected people can spread the virus BEFORE becoming symptomatic? That’s why the vaccine is recommended for everyone over 6 months old, and especially high-risk individuals. Almost half of all Canadians 50+ have at least one high-risk condition which increases death from flu; without the vaccine, you could expose them before you even know you’re sick. 

Myth: The flu vaccination is all you need to do to protect yourself from the flu. 
Fact: Flu cases were nearly eradicated in Canada while anti-COVID-19 restrictions were in effect. We’re already used to these measures – and should maintain them – especially when around high-risk people. Avoid contact with people who have the flu, wash your hands frequently, and consider taking anti-viral medications if you were exposed to the flu before being vaccinated. In public places, a well-fitted mask gives an extra layer of protection. 

 

Still can’t decide whether to get a flu shot, or confused about which flu shot is right for you? 

Have you ever wondered why flu shots are recommended annually, when some other vaccines are given only once, or every 10 years? The answer is that the flu vaccine is constantly changing! There are simply so many strains of influenza, it’s impossible to protect against them all. Instead, the annual vaccine is developed based on research into which strains are likely to be most dominant each year. Depending on your health and risk factors, you’ll receive either the basic vaccine, or the high dose.

Vaccines work by training your immune system to recognise a disease, without you getting sick first. Canadian infectious disease and public health experts recommend the publicly funded high dose shot for seniors 65+, and recognise several vaccines for children and younger adults. This fall, a new vaccine is available tailored for adults 18 and older, alongside the existing high-dose option for seniors 65+.

Learn more about Influenza in our Influenza Brochure.

 

Influenza Resources

To reduce waste, please note that we are unable to provide printed flu vaccine awareness materials. Our resources are available for download only; you are welcome to print them! If you have questions or if you require the modification of any NB Lung resource (for example, placement of your organization’s logo), please contact leah.hemphill@nb.lung.ca. We’re here for you, and welcome your feedback!  

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Page Last Updated: 09/09/2022