Influenza, or the Flu is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the flu virus and is spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing. More rarely it can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces. The flu is a common occurrence everywhere in the world, and flu season occurs from October to May in the Northern Hemisphere and from April through September in the Southern. In tropical countries, the flu can be contracted year-round. In Canada, flu vaccines are free and new ones appear on a yearly basis. Publically funded influenza vaccines are Trivalent vaccines. At ABC Travel Clinic, we have a Quadrivalent Influenza vaccine with an additional strain which appears to be much stronger than the regular publically funded influenza vaccine.
The flu causes a variety of symptoms, with most people experiencing fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, body aches and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea is more common in children than adults, but may also occur. Children, seniors and people with compromised immune systems are at risk for more serious forms of the flu, and can experience complications such as pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions. In rare and extreme cases death may occur. For this reason, prevention of the flu in those who are at risk is very important.
Flu season happens in Canada from October to May, and can be contracted at any point. As the flu is common worldwide, international travel doesn’t increase your risk of getting the flu, though travelling to tropical countries where the risk for influenza is yearlong may increase your risk.
A flu vaccine is the first and most important step in flu prevention and protects against the three most common flu-causing viruses. The vaccine is available as a shot or nasal spray and is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months as soon as flu season begins in your region. The vaccine is not foolproof and many new forms of the flu virus are continuously appearing, but it greatly reduces your risk. Vaccination is very important for at-risk people, such as young children, the elderly and those with lowered immune systems. Pregnant women, those with asthma, lung disease or heart disease are also more at risk. To avoid getting the flu during flu season you should take measures to limit your contact with sick people, wash your hands often, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth and always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. We always recommend cleaning or disinfecting surfaces that may be contaminated.
If you are not an immunocompromised person, you will generally recover within a few days. However, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus you should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care. Limiting your contact with healthy people is imperative to stop the spread of the virus. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often with soap and water and wait to recover. Seek immediate medical attention when your symptoms worsen.
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Influenza information. Retrieved from: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/influenza-seasonal-zoonotic-and-pandemic