Get vaccinated. Don't spread the flu.
Flu - Questions and Answers

Immunization has saved more lives in Canada in the last 50 years than any other medical intervention. Vaccines help your immune system to recognize and fight bacteria and viruses that cause diseases.

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Why should I get the flu vaccine?

Getting the flu vaccine every year is the best way to protect yourself against seasonal influenza (the flu).

The flu can seem similar to a common cold, but the symptoms of the flu are usually more severe. Fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and a dry cough are more common with the flu than with a common cold. Also, the flu is more likely to lead to serious problems like pneumonia, bacterial infections and hospitalization.

When you are immunized, you also help protect others, because you are less likely to spread infection.

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What is the flu?

The flu is an infection caused by a virus. It can spread easily from one person to another through coughing, sneezing or sharing food or drinks. You can also get the flu by touching objects contaminated with flu virus and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.

It's important to wash your hands regularly and practice good cough and sneeze etiquette (coughing or sneezing into your elbow, sleeve or using a tissue).

The flu season in Manitoba usually begins in the late fall and lasts into the spring. For this reason, it is best to get immunized early in the fall.

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What is the Flu Vaccine?

There are many different strains of flu virus. The vaccine cannot protect against all of them. Every year, scientists monitor the global spread of flu and decide which four flu strains will likely cause the most illness during flu season. Those four strains are then put into the flu vaccine (known as the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine) for that year, so each year the vaccine is different.

It is important to get the flu vaccine every year because the viruses change from year-to-year and the protection provided by the vaccine decreases over time.

An annual flu vaccine is especially important for Manitobans at increased risk of serious illness from the flu, their caregivers and close contacts. This includes:

  • Seniors aged 65 years or older
  • Residents of personal care homes or long-term care facilities
  • Children six months to five years of age
  • Those with chronic illness such as:
    • Cardiac  or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma);
    • Diabetes mellitus and other metabolic disorders;
    • Cancer, immune compromising conditions (due to underlying disease and/or therapy);
    • Renal disease;
    • Anemia or hemoglobinopathy;
    • Conditions that compromise the management of respiratory secretions and are associated with an increased risk of aspiration;
    • Children 6 months to adolescents 18 years of age on long term acetylsalicylic acid (i.e. Aspirin) therapy; and,
    • Children, adolescents and adults with neurologic or neurodevelopment conditions (including seizure disorders, febrile seizures and isolated developmental delay).
  • Pregnant women
  • Health care workers and first responders
  • Individuals of Aboriginal ancestry
  • People who are severely overweight or obese
  • Or as determined by your primary health care provider

Children under nine years of age who have never had a seasonal flu vaccine before will need two doses, given four weeks apart.

Healthy children 2 to 17 years of age can receive a needle-free flu vaccine called FluMist® which is given intranasally. The vaccine is approved by Health Canada and is provided at no charge.

As with previous years, Manitoba also has a standard needle option available, known as inactivated influenza vaccine, which is also approved by Health Canada and provided at no charge for Manitobans over 6 months of age.

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Who should NOT get the flu vaccine?

Children under 6 months of age.

People with a high fever should not get immunized. But, those with a mild illness, like a cold, can still get the flu vaccine.
Speak to a public health nurse, pharmacist, doctor or nurse practitioner if you have had a serious reaction to a previous dose of any vaccine, including Guillian Barré Syndrome (GBS), or if you have any severe allergies, including egg protein.

Manitoba is providing FluMist® free-of-charge to children 2 to 17 years age, provided they do not have any of the following conditions:

  • Children less than 2 years of age.
  • Adolescents who are pregnant or could become pregnant in the next month.
  • Children and adolescents with an immune system weakened by disease or medical treatment.
  • History of severe allergic (anaphylactic) reaction to a previous dose of any type of influenza vaccine or any component of FluMist.
  • Those who have severe asthma or active wheezing in the last 7 days.
  • Those on long term Aspirin treatment in the last 4 weeks.
  • Those with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of receipt of a previous dose of influenza vaccine without another cause being identified.

If any of the following apply, please discuss with your health care professional prior to the administration of FluMist®:

  • History of severe oculo-respiratory syndrome after an influenza vaccine.
  • Contact with someone who is severely immunocompromised and receiving care in hospital in a protected environment.
  • Currently on or received antiviral medications in the past 2 weeks.
  • Require a tuberculosis (TB) skin test in the next 4 weeks.

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Possible side-effects of the flu vaccine.

Vaccines are known to be very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get the flu.

Like any other medicine, the seasonal flu vaccine may cause side effects such as redness, soreness and swelling where the vaccine was injected. Some people may experience fever or muscle aches, which may last 1 to 2 days. These side effects are common and are usually temporary.

Possible reactions after getting FluMist® include a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, sore throat and fever. Some children may have a headache, decreased appetite or weakness.

Severe allergic reactions are rare but if you experience respiratory symptoms such as severe throat swelling, chest tightness or difficulty breathing within 24 hours after receiving the "flu" vaccine, you should go directly to an emergency room, nursing station, or call 911.

Rare conditions

In past flu seasons, some people experienced one or more of the following symptoms associated with Oculorespiratory Syndrome (ORS): red eyes, shortness of breath, chest tightness, cough, sore throat, or swelling of the face. These symptoms usually appeared within 24 hours of getting the flu vaccine and were gone within two days.

Seasonal flu vaccines have been associated with Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS), which is a form of paralysis that is usually temporary. It is a very rare reaction that occurs with approximately one out of every million flu vaccinations.

Report any serious or unexpected side-effects to a public health nurse, pharmacist or doctor.

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For more information on the flu:

Talk to your doctor, public health nurse or pharmacist.

Call Health Links – Info Santé in Winnipeg at 204-788-8200; toll-free elsewhere in Manitoba 1-888-315-9257.

Or visit:

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Click here for more information about other recommended and publicly-funded vaccines.