The Flu: What it is and what you can do about it.
By Jo-Ann Ottley BScN, RN, DE
What is the flu?
Seasonal Influenza or "the flu" is a respiratory (lung) infection caused by a virus. It is spread from person to person through coughs and sneezes, as far as 6 feet away. According to Health Canada a person might also get the flu from touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it, then touch their own mouth or nose. Hand-washing with soap and water or an alcohol based hand rub is very important in reducing the spread of the flu.
How is the flu spread?
Healthy people can get very ill from the flu and spread it to others. Influenza is very contagious; adults can infect others one day before having symptoms and up to 7 days after becoming ill and children may pass along the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1-4 days after the virus enters the body. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms, these people are carriers and may spread the virus to others. The flu is a serious infection that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death.
Signs and symptoms of the flu:
- Sudden Onset
- Fever (may or may not)
- Cough, sore throat, and runny nose
- Muscle and body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea (Less frequently in adults)
These symptoms can last from a few days to 2 weeks. Antiviral drugs are available from a health care provider, and should be taken within 48 hours after becoming ill. These medications can shorten your illness by 1-2 days and lessen your symptoms. Stay home from work, school, shopping, for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever reducing medicine.
How do I treat the flu?
Health Canada's home treatment recommends; rest, plenty of fluids, and check with your health care provider or pharmacist before taking over the counter medications to treat your symptoms.
How can I prevent the flu?
The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Flu season is already upon us. Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May, with peaks between December and February. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people getting vaccinated soon after the vaccines are available, as it takes 2 weeks for antibodies to develop in
the body. Vaccines are currently available in Thunder Bay. See below for NorWest Community Health Centres mobile flu clinics. As well Thunder Bay District Health Unit will be holding flu clinics, or ask your health care provider, physician or nurse practitioner.
Flu Vaccines are designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will be the most common during the upcoming season. The three most common viruses are Influenza A (H1N1), Influenza A ( H3N2), and Influenza B.
What side effects might I experience from the vaccine?
A flu vaccine cannot give you the flu illness, however there are mild and short-lasting side effects from this vaccine, including;
- Soreness, redness or swelling at injection site
- Low grade fever
There is a nasal spray available as a vaccine as well, common side effects for children may include;
- Runny nose
- Headache/muscle aches
Remember the single best way to protect yourself and family against influenza is to get vaccinated.
Where can I get vaccinated?
NorWest Community Health Centres: Mobile Health Services Flu Clinics will be provided in Kakabeka Falls, Neebing, Nolalu, Kaministiqua, Murillo, O'Connor, and Shebandowan Call 626-8474 for dates and times or visit our Mobile Unit calendar.
Thunder Bay District Health Unit
For all clinic schedules call the FLU
LINE: 624-9082 -Toll free 1-866-607-3337 or visit
Jo-Ann Ottley is a Registered Nurse with the Diabetes Team on the Mobile Health Services at the NorWest Community Health Centres.
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