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Influenza: It's time to get your flu shot!

Please call your local Porcupine Health Unit office to book your appointment for the flu vaccine.

What is influenza, or the flu?

Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that is spread from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. It is also spread through direct contact with surfaces and objects contaminated by the influenza virus, such as toys, unwashed eating utensils and unclean hands.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

People who get the flu may have a fever, chills, cough, runny nose, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, extreme weakness and fatigue. Children can also have earaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

How can I protect myself and my family against the flu?

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get immunized. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), a national expert group on immunization, strongly recommends annual influenza immunization.

Ontario is now offering parents more choices to help protect their children and youth against the flu. This year children and youth can receive either a free nasal spray or an injection. If you are bringing children between the ages of two and 17 to an appointment or clinic, you will be asked to make a choice between a nasal spray or an injection. Both are equally effective at protecting your child against the flu and both are safe.

The flu vaccine for adults will remain available in an injectable form, with protection against the three flu viruses most likely to circulate during the flu season. Influenza B affects children and adolescents more frequently that it affects adults, therefore the quadrivalent influenza vaccine is not yet available as a publicly funded vaccine for adults.

To book your appointment for the flu vaccine, please call your local Porcupine Health Unit office.

How well does the vaccine protect against influenza?

Influenza immunization builds up antibodies against the influenza viruses in the vaccine, making it easier to fight influenza infection before it starts. The quadrivalent influenza vaccine offers broader protection than the trivalent influenza vaccine since it contains four strains of influenza virus, two influenza A strains and two influenza B strains.

The trivalent and quadrivalent influenza vaccine provide the same degree of protection against the three strains they share in common. Generally influenza vaccines offer about 60% protection when the vaccine and circulating strains are well matched. The quadrivalent influenza vaccine will offer extra protection if the additional B strain in that vaccine is in circulation during influenza season.

It takes about two weeks following immunization to develop protection against influenza and protection can last up to one year. People who receive the vaccine can still get influenza but if they do, they may not get as sick. The vaccine will not protect against colds and other respiratory illnesses that may be mistaken for influenza, but are not caused by the influenza virus.

Do I need to get the influenza vaccine every year?

Yes, the influenza vaccine is needed each year. The influenza virus changes often, so it is necessary to get immunized with influenza vaccine every year for protection from the new virus strains that may be circulating that year.

Is the influenza vaccine safe?

The influenza vaccine is safe and well tolerated. Influenza vaccines that protect against four influenza viruses are made in the same way as the influenza vaccines that have been around for years that protect against three influenza viruses. These vaccines have undergone the same testing as other vaccines approved for use in Canada.

What do I do if I think myself or my child has the flu?

Stay home if you are sick and keep your child home from school or daycare if they are sick. Seek medical attention but call ahead to your health care provider's office or the emergency department to ensure they have proper precautions in place to protect others.

To prevent spreading the influenza virus, cough and sneeze into your sleeve, keep commonly touched surfaces cleaned, and clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.