Influenza, a contagious respiratory illness better known as the flu, is caused by influenza viruses, specifically Type A and B. The virus is passed from one person to another through close contact and contaminated surfaces. People can transmit the virus to others even before they have symptoms themselves. Symptoms of the flu (fever, congestion, aches and pains, fatigue, sore throat, etc.) are often mixed up with symptoms of the common cold (sore throat, runny nose, congestion, cough).
Most people suffer through influenza with minor discomfort. But some people may develop complications and end up in the hospital. It may even lead to death. People most at risk of developing serious infections are the over 65, nursing home and chronic care residents, people with medical conditions, Indigenous people, pregnant women and children under the age of 3.
In Canada, statistics show that influenza is responsible for, on average, 12,200 hospitalizations and about 3,500 deaths. Protection from influenza is available through annual vaccines. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that all Canadians, 6 months and older, be immunized against influenza. Immunization is required every year because new strains appear annually. Influenza vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective in reducing the spread of influenza and cannot give you influenza. You can find out more about being immunized against influenza by talking to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or local public health unit.