We are helping protect our patients, their families and visitors from the flu this season. Getting the flu shot will help protect you from getting sick from the flu. It is also important to understand what influenza is and how it spreads. Please take a moment to read some quick FAQs and remember to always wash your hands!
What is influenza?
Influenza, often called the flu, is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by the influenza virus. It can spread around the world in epidemics and causes serious illness as well as death. In Canada the influenza season usually begins in October and can last to August.
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 coughs and sneezes on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth, eyes or nose before washing their hands.
How does the flu shot work?
The influenza vaccine (flu shot) is made from particles of killed flu viruses. It contains three different types of influenza viruses (two types of influenza A and one of influenza B). A person who receives the flu shot develops immunity for the types of flu in the vaccine. The body needs about two weeks to build up protection to the virus, and this protection may last four months or longer.
The flu vaccine is 70-90 per cent effective in healthy individuals and usually protects well for at least six months. In the elderly, young people and people with weak immune systems, chronic heart and lung diseases it is approximately 40 per cent effective and usually protects for only four months. Flu season begins in October and can last to August.
People with influenza are contagious for one to two days before symptoms start – this is the most common cause of spread within health care institutions. Many people can also have mild symptoms which are often mistaken for the common cold.
Who should not get the flu shot?
- Infants six months old and younger
- Individuals with severe allergic reactions to egg or egg proteins or any component of the vaccine
- Those with history of neurological illness such as Guillan-Barre syndrome
This information has been collected from a number of sources including St. Joseph’s Health Centre’s Infection Prevention and Control Department and Toronto Public Health.
Subscribe to our eConnections newsletter for the latest St. Joe's news, health tips, recipes and more.