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 EARLY fall and EVERY fall is the best way to protect yourself and your family and friends against seasonal influenza (the flu).

The flu can seem similar to a common cold, but the symptoms of the flu are usually more severe. Sudden high fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and a dry cough are more common with the flu than with a common cold. Other common symptoms include headache, chills, loss of appetite and sore throat. Nausea and upset stomach may also occur, especially in young children. The flu can lead to more serious problems like pneumonia and bacterial infections, sometimes resulting in 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 a respiratory 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. For this reason, it's important to cover your nose and mouth with your forearm when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands often with soap and water (or hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable), especially after coughing and sneezing.

The flu season in Manitoba usually begins in the fall and lasts into the spring. For your protection, you and your child(ren) should get immunized early in the fall before the flu starts to circulate.

 

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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 flu strains will likely cause the most illness during flu season. Those strains are then put into the flu 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:

  • Persons 65 years of age and older
  • Residents of personal care homes or long-term care facilities
  • Children six to 59 months of age
  • Individuals with the following chronic health conditions:
    • An immune system weakened by disease or medical treatment
    • Cardiac  or pulmonary disorders (ex: cystic fibrosis, asthma) Individuals aged six months to 18 years on long-term acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin®) therapy
    • Neurologic or neurodevelopmental conditions
    • Diabetes and other metabolic diseases
    • Renal disease
    • Anemia or hemoglobinopathy
    • Obesity (body mass index ≥ 40)
  • Pregnant women
  • Health care workers and first responders
  • Regular caregivers of children up to five years of age
  • Indigenous peoples

Children younger than nine years of age who have never had a seasonal flu vaccineneed two doses, given at least four weeks apart.

This year, a new flu vaccine is being offered to people 65 years of age or older who are living in a long-term care facility in Manitoba. This vaccine, known as Fluzone® High-Dose, is expected to provide better protection against seasonal influenza, compared to the standard inactivated influenza vaccine, and is given by injection (needle).

Healthy children two to 17 years of age can be immunized with a needle-free flu vaccine called FluMist® Quadrivalent which is a nasal spray. A small number of healthy adults up to 59 years of age who are needle averse may also be immunized with FluMist® Quadrivalent.

All other people aged six months and older can receive the inactivated influenza vaccine given by injection (needle), known as either Fluzone® Quadrivalent or Flulaval® Tetra.

 

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Who should NOT get the flu vaccine?

Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of any flu vaccine or to any of the contents of any flu vaccine (excluding eggs), or who has developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks after receiving any flu vaccine, should not get vaccinated against the flu.

There is no need to delay immunization because of a cold or other mild illness. However, if you are concerned, speak with a health care provider.

In addition, the following people should NOT get FluMist® Quadrivalent (nasal spray):

  • Children less than two years of age
  • Anyone with severe asthma as defined as currently on oral or high-dose inhaled glucocorticosteroids or active wheezing, or those with medically attended wheezing in the seven days prior to immunization
  • Individuals two to 17 years of age on long-term Aspirin® treatment in the last four weeks
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone with an immune system weakened by disease or medical treatment
  • Adults with any chronic medical condition
  • Adults older than 59 years of age

Children under six months of age should not receive the inactivated influenza vaccine (needle).

Discuss with your health care provider prior to getting immunized with FluMist® Quadrivalent (nasal spray), if you or your child(ren) will either be in contact with someone who is severely immunocompromised (ex: post bone marrow transplant recipients), or are taking (or have taken) antiviral medication in the past two 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.

The most common side effects of the injectable (needle) flu vaccine are soreness, redness or swelling where the vaccine was given. Other symptoms are fever, headache and tiredness. Fluzone® High-Dose may cause more soreness, redness and/or swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®, Tempra® or generic versions) can be given for fever or soreness.

Common reactions to FluMist® Quadrivalent (nasal spray) may include a runny or stuffy nose.

Some people have experienced oculo-respiratory syndrome (ORS) that starts within 24 hours of receiving a flu vaccine. ORS is defined as the presence of bilateral red eyes with (or without) swelling of the face plus one or more of the following: cough, wheeze, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and swallowing, hoarseness or sore throat. Talk to your health care provider if you or your child(ren) have previously experienced ORS after receiving a flu vaccine.

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

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 health centre, or call 911.

 

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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.