Influenza (Flu)

What is Influenza?

Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

What type of strain are we expecting this year?

Each year, the flu is unpredictable but there are patterns that can be tracked to determine particular strains. Health Canada reports that as of mid-October 2019, Influenza A(H3N2) is the most common influenza virus circulating in Canada.

How does flu spread?

Flu spreads person-to-person primarily from the airborne particles generated by coughing and sneezing, as well as by physical contact.

What are the symptoms of flu?

Flu symptoms are usually more severe than those of the common cold. Symptoms typically develop one day to seven days after exposure, and can last from a few days to two weeks. They may include any or all of the following:

  • Fever or feeling feverish, often with chills
  • Body aches or muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea, more commonly in children

Who should get a flu shot?

In BC, flu shots can be provided free of charge to the following groups* :

  • People at high risk
  • People capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk
  • People who provide essential community services

For the full list of criteria, please visit the BCCDC’s 2019/20 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Eligibility

It’s the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu. According to HealthLink BC, people who are at increased risk for the flu include:

  • Adults age 65 and older.
  • Adults and children who have long-term health problems or an impaired immune system.
  • Children 6 to 59 months of age.
  • Pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant
  • Children and adolescents (age 6 months to 18 years) who use long-term aspirin treatment.
  • People who are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more.
  • People who live in nursing homes or long-term care centres.
  • First Nations and Aboriginal peoples.
  • People who work and live with those at high risk

When is the best time to get a flu shot?

Flu season in Canada usually starts in the fall and peaks sometime between late December and early February. It is recommended to get your flu shot as early as possible, as it can take approximately 2 weeks for the vaccine to take full effect and provide protection.

Where can I get a flu shot?

You can go to your nearest local community pharmacy that provides flu injections by an injection-certified pharmacist. Up to 98% of pharmacists in B.C. are authorized to provide immunization injections. Ask your pharmacist or go to Immunize BC’s Flu Clinic Locator at and check on availability and scheduled times for flu shots at your nearest pharmacy.

What if I get the flu?

If you get the flu, stay home. It is important to keep your immune system as healthy as possible with plenty of sleep, fluids, proper nutrition and as needed, over the counter pain relief such as acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen for fever and body aches. Avoid alcohol and tobacco. If you are in the at-risk group or have questions about complications of influenza, contact your doctor.

How can I prevent the spread of flu?

Wash your hands frequently, cough or sneeze into your arm (not your hands) and try to minimize or avoid contact with others who appear ill. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean.