Influenza, or the 'flu', is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by the influenza virus.

What is influenza?

Influenza, or the 'flu', is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by the influenza virus. Many people use the term ‘flu’ to refer to any illness caused by a virus, such as ‘stomach flu’ or the common cold – these illnesses are different than influenza.

How is influenza spread?

Influenza spreads easily from person to person through breathing, coughing and sneezing. The virus can also spread when a person touches tiny droplets from a cough or sneeze, and then touches their eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

An adult can spread the virus from about one day before to five days after symptoms start. That means you can spread influenza before knowing you have it.

Children can spread the virus up to 21 days after symptoms start.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

Influenza symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Coughing

Children may also experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Do I have influenza or a cold?

Information to help you decide if you have influenza or a cold.

What are the risks of influenza?

Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. The risk of complications from the influenza virus such as bacterial pneumonia is greater for seniors 65 years and older, pregnant women, children under the age of 5 years, and people with medical conditions.

Did you know?

  • Influenza is one of the top 10 infectious diseases affecting the Canadian population.
  • Each year, about 12,200 Canadians are hospitalized because of influenza.
  • About 3,500 Canadians die from influenza every year.
  • 1.5 million work days are lost in Canada because of influenza every year.

How can I prevent getting influenza?

The best way to not get influenza is to get immunized. The influenza vaccine is safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get the disease. When you get immunized you help to protect others as well.

Who should get the influenza vaccine?

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends the influenza vaccine for everyone six months of age and older. In B.C., the influenza vaccine is free to people who are at high risk of serious illness from influenza and those that are able to spread influenza to those at high risk.

Find out if you are eligible for a free seasonal flu shot and where you can get one.