Influenza, often called the "flu," is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by an influenza virus. Many people use the term the "flu" to refer to any illness caused by a virus, such as "stomach flu" or the common cold, which are different than influenza.
The flu 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. These include viral or bacterial pneumonia, an infection of the lungs.
Your best defence is to get your flu shot. This year's flu shot will offer protection against three strains of influenza viruses specified by the World Health Organization: A/California/7/2009 (h1N1)pdm09-like virus, A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (h3N2)-like virus, B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (Yamagata lineage). Children will also be protected against a fourth strain - B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
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The risk of complications is greater for pregnant women, seniors 65 years and older, very young children, and people who have lung or heart diseases, certain chronic health problems, or weakened immune systems.
Influenza symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, extreme tiredness, and cough. Children may also experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Symptoms can begin about one to four days after a person is first exposed to the influenza virus. Fever and other symptoms may last up to seven to ten days, with the cough and weakness lasting up to two more weeks.Visit the Symptom Checker on the HealthLink BC website to learn more.
Frequent hand washing can reduce the risk of all respiratory infections.
You can also reduce the spread of germs by practicing safe coughing and sneezing techniques.
Anybody who thinks they have an influenza-like illness (i.e. fever and cough) should remain at home and limit exposure to others.
Spread the word about good hand hygiene. Download one of our posters on our how to stay healthy page.