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Influenza Season

Influenza (Flu) Season

Are you prepared for flu season? Learn how to stay healthy during the Influenza (Flu) season.

Influenza is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus. Every year there is a period of time when influenza spreads in our communities and causes disease and outbreaks. This is called the influenza season. The influenza season varies from year to year. The influenza season generally occurs during the fall, winter and early spring. On average, it starts in November/December, and lasts until February/March.

The severity of an influenza infection can vary from mild to severe. Getting sick from influenza can put you at risk of severe disease and its complications, including getting sick with other infections. These include viral or bacterial pneumonia, which affects the lungs. The risk of complications can be life-threatening. Each year many Canadians die from influenza and its complications.

The symptoms of influenza can be similar to other respiratory illnesses including the common cold and COVID-19. Use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to find out if you or your family members need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. To learn more about symptoms, how it spreads and prevention visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) health feature.

Each year in Canada, ten thousand or more people are hospitalized and thousands die from influenza and its complications. Understanding what seasonal influenza really is can help prevent you and your family from becoming sick. Learn more about the health complications influenza can cause and who is most at risk.

Who should get an influenza vaccine?

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older without contraindications should get a yearly influenza vaccination. If you have any medical conditions, ask your doctor if you have any contraindications, or reasons why you should not get an influenza vaccine. Vaccination is especially important for people most at risk of severe influenza, influenza-related complications, hospitalization or death. While everyone is at risk of getting infected and being sick with influenza, those at greatest risk include very young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions. Vaccination is also important for people who are able to transmit influenza to those at highest risk, and for people providing essential community services.

Vaccine Eligibility

New starting in the fall of 2021, the influenza vaccine is offered free of charge to everyone 6 months of age and older without contraindications. See BCCDC: 2021/22 Seasonal Influenza Vaccines Eligibility (PDF 87KB).

Pharmacists can immunize people 5 years of age and older with injectable vaccines and 2 years and older with nasal spray influenza vaccine.

Common Questions about Influenza

Find answers to some of the most common questions about influenza. Learn how serious it can be. Find out how it spreads, how long after exposure symptoms take to appear and what symptoms to look for. Find out what you can do to prevent influenza, from vaccination, to staying home when ill, to handwashing.

Featured Topics

Influenza (the flu)

To learn about influenza, how to prevent it, what the symptoms are, what the home treatments are and more see Facts about Influenza (the Flu) (HealthLinkBC File #12b).

Influenza Vaccinations

Influenza vaccines are a safe and the most effective way to help people stay healthy, prevent illness and even save lives. To learn about influenza vaccinations, click on the links below.

Washing Your Hands

Hand washing is one of the best ways to keep yourself and others healthy. Regularly washing your hands can help stop the spread of germs, including the virus that causes influenza. To learn more see Hand Washing: Help Stop the Spread of Germs (HealthLinkBC File #85).

Influenza Policies and programs

Useful Websites

BC Centre for Disease Control

BCCDC provides health promotion and prevention services, and diagnostic and treatment services to reduce communicable and chronic diseases, injuries and environmental health risks. BCCDC also provides analytical and policy support to government and health authorities.

ImmunizeBC

ImmunizeBC works to reduce the number of infections by vaccine-preventable diseases in B.C. ImmunizeBC provides information on immunizations to individuals, families and health care providers. They also provide tools to make it easier for B.C. families to get immunized. For information on where you can locate influenza clinics across the province or to learn more about influenza and the influenza vaccine, click on the links below.

Government of Canada

Get answers to many questions about the seasonal influenza, including causes, symptoms, risks, treatment and prevention.

Last updated: October 2021

Information in the Influenza Health Feature is adapted from Health Canada - National Advisory Committee on Immunization, accessed October 25, 2021, the BCCDC: Vaccines in BC, accessed August 05, 2021 and ImmunizeBC - Influenza, accessed September 11, 2020.