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 defense 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.
Looking for a flu shot clinic?
Protect yourself and prevent the spread, find a location near you.
Who's at greatest risk?
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.
What are the symptoms?
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 at HealthLinkBC to learn more.
How can I prevent the spread?
- Wash your hands. Frequent hand washing can reduce the risk of all respiratory infections.
- Cover your cough. You can also reduce the spread of germs by practising safe coughing and sneezing techniques.
- Stay at home. Anybody who thinks they have an influenza-like illness (i.e. fever and cough) should remain at home and limit exposure to others. Read the guidelines for isolating yourself at home.
Spread the word about good hand hygiene. Download one of our posters on the educational materials page.
Looking for more specific influenza information?
Are you a physician?
Visit the For Physicians section of this site.
Are you a pharmacist?
Visit the For Pharmacists section of this site.
Do you operate a residential care facility?
Visit the For Residential Care page.
Do you work in a school or child care facility? Visit the For Schools and Child Care page.
Looking for information on pandemic preparedness?
Visit the Pandemic Response Plans page.