Flu

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory illness caused by viruses that affect the nose, throat and lungs. Flu season, the peak time for influenza, is November through April each year. The flu shot is your best defence to protect yourself and your family against the flu.


How do you get the flu?

The flu is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing, or by touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus.

To protect yourself from the flu you can:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and running water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Frequently clean and disinfect common surfaces and items
  • Get your flu shot

Symptoms

Symptoms usually start one to four days after being exposed to the virus. Most people will recover in seven to ten days. Individuals in high-risk groups could experience more severe complications.

You may have the flu if you have:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Extreme weakness and tiredness

Influenza is often confused with the common cold. Read Flu Facts to compare your symptoms.

If you think you have the flu, you should:

  • Stay home until your symptoms begin to go away; get plenty of rest
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm or a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Do not visit people in hospital or long-term care facilities
  • See your health care provider if:
    • You do not start to feel better after a few days
    • Your symptoms get worse
    • You are in a high-risk group and develop flu symptoms

Complications

Flu-related complications can affect anyone but they are more common for those in a high risk group. This includes:

  • Older adults (people 65+ years)
  • Children under five years old
  • Pregnant women
  • People with underlying health conditions

Complications from the flu can include pneumonia, which is a serious illness. It is estimated that flu causes approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada each year.


Flu vaccine

The flu shot is the best way to reduce your risk of getting sick with influenza and spreading it to others. In elderly people, the vaccine can prevent pneumonia, hospitalization and death. It is especially important to get your flu shot this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Protection against influenza will prevent additional burden on our health care system, protect us and those most vulnerable in our families and community.

The vaccine is free and available to anyone six months of age and older in Ontario.

The flu vaccine is available late October every season in our community.

Where to get the flu shot:

While Region of Waterloo Public Health does not offer community flu vaccine clinics, the vaccine is widely available at the following locations:

  • Health care providers
  • Pharmacies
  • Walk-in clinics

Before getting the flu vaccine:

Call your selected location ahead to make sure the flu vaccine is available and to see if an appointment is needed. If you are having trouble with your selected location, try calling a few other places. The vaccine is delivered in batches and locations will receive more when they run out.

Public Health can not provide names of locations of where the vaccine is currently available as that changes daily.

Important note:

  • In addition to local health care providers, pharmacies will also have high-dose flu vaccine this season for individuals 65 years and older, free of charge
  • Pharmacies can only vaccinate children two years of age and older
  • Pharmacies will provide the flu vaccine if you do not have a health card*, free of charge
  • Flumist is not available in Ontario for this flu season

*If you do not have an Ontario health card:

Certain pharmacies will provide the flu vaccine free of charge if you do not have a health card. Call to confirm with the individual pharmacy.


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