Seasonal Influenza, A Helpful Reminder

Seasonal Influenza

It’s that time of the year again, leaves are changing colour, days are getting shorter and our noses are getting runnier. There is not much we can do about the leaves or the days but we can protect ourselves and others from catching Seasonal Influenza.

What Is Influenza?

Influenza refers to illnesses and symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, caused by a number of different influenza viruses.  Typical symptoms are fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue.  Annual outbreaks of seasonal influenza usually occur during the late fall through early spring.

How to Protect Yourself and Others?

The best prevention for influenza is getting vaccinated.  An influenza vaccine not only provides protection for an individual, it also helps protect vulnerable populations that are at a higher risk of complications from influenza.

These “high risk” groups include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children 5 years of age and younger
  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • People with chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes and immunocompromised persons

Receiving an influenza vaccine is particularly important if you work in a high-rick environment such as a hospital. As you can be infectious with the influenza virus for up to 24 hours before displaying symptoms, you could inadvertently spread influenza before you become sick with symptoms.   The seasonal influenza vaccine is extremely safe for everyone, including pregnant women and children.  Other ways to help protect yourself and others from getting influenza include:

  • Staying home from work if you have influenza-like symptoms
  • Regularly washing your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer
  • Coughing and sneezing into your sleeve or a tissue

What if I Get Sick With Influenza?  

If you have influenza-like symptoms you should:

  • Stay home, drink clear fluids
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Avoid close contact with others

If you have significant influenza symptoms or are in one of the high risk groups (see above), you should see your health care provider, preferably within the first 48 hours, to see if you are eligible for antiviral medications.  If you are taking care of someone at home who has influenza remember to protect yourself and others in the household.

What Is Pandemic Influenza Again?

Pandemic influenza refers to a novel influenza A virus for which there is little or no immunity in the human population.  Because it is a novel virus, it takes approximately 6 months to develop an effective vaccine.  A pandemic influenza virus can cause serious illness and spreads easily from person-to-person worldwide.  The most recent example of a pandemic influenza was in 2009, caused by the novel H1N1 (swine) virus.

Further Information  More information on this year’s seasonal influenza may also be found at:
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/influenza/index-eng.php