What is Influenza?
The flu is a serious illness that is caused by a virus.
People experience a number of symptoms, including:
- muscle aches
- extreme fatigue
For some people it can lead to pneumonia, which is a more serious illness. Some people can become very sick and will need hospital care.
In Canada, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue as late as May. Peak flu season is in a 10 to 16 week period that usually starts in December. Between 10% and 20% of the population will get the flu each year.
The flu shot helps your body to build up its defences, making you more resistant to flu viruses. The flu shot is safe, and helps you stay healthy and avoid getting the flu.
Influenza viruses are always changing, so vaccines against the flu are updated every year. Each flu season, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the most common viruses that are going around. That’s why it is important for you to get vaccinated every year. During years when there is a good match between the flu shot and circulating viruses, the flu shot can prevent up to 60% of influenza infections in healthy adults and children. Protection can be lower in the elderly.
Sometimes, even though you get the flu shot, you might still get the flu. This could happen for a couple of reasons. You may have been exposed to a flu virus before you got the flu shot. Or, you might have caught a flu strain that wasn’t covered by this year’s flu shot.
However, if you do get the flu after you have gotten the flu shot, you may not get as sick.
Who can get the influenza vaccine?
Anyone aged six months and older who lives, works or attends school in Ontario is eligible to receive the publicly funded influenza vaccine.
Who should not get the vaccine?
The following people should not get the flu shot:
• Infants under 6 months of age
• Anyone who had a serious allergy to a previous dose or any ingredient in the vaccine (except eggs)
• Anyone who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome within six weeks of a previous flu vaccination
Source: © Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2012-15