Influenza, also called the flu, is an infection of the upper airway caused by an influenza virus. Every year there is a period of time when there are more outbreaks of the flu. This is called the flu season. The flu season generally occurs during the fall, winter and early spring. Getting sick with the flu can put you at risk of getting other infections. These include viral or bacterial pneumonia, which affects the lungs. The risk of complications can be life-threatening.
The symptoms of flu are 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.
In Canada, thousands of people are hospitalized and may die from the flu and its complications during years with widespread or epidemic influenza activity. Understanding the seasonal flu can help prevent you and your family from becoming sick. Learn more about the health complications the flu can cause and who is at risk.
Who should get an influenza vaccine?
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a yearly influenza vaccination with rare exceptions. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of influenza-related complications or hospitalization. Those at greater risk include 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 high risk.
To learn who is eligible to receive the flu vaccines for free, visit BCCDC: 2021/22 Seasonal Influenza Vaccines Eligibility (PDF 87KB).
If you’re not eligible for a free influenza vaccine, you can buy one at most pharmacies and travel clinics. Ask your community pharmacist if they can vaccinate you. Pharmacists can immunize people 5 years of age and older with injectable vaccine 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 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 handwashing.
To learn about the flu, 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 (Flu) Vaccinations
Influenza vaccines are a safe and effective way to help people stay healthy, prevent illness and even save lives. To learn about the inactivated influenza vaccine, the live attenuated influenza vaccine, myths and facts about influenza immunization and the benefits of getting the vaccine, click on the links below.
- Why Seniors Should Get the Inactivated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine (HealthLinkBC File #12a)
- Influenza (Flu) Immunization: Myths and Facts (HealthLinkBC File #12c)
- Inactivated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine (HealthLinkBC File #12d)
- Live Attenuated Influenza (Flu) Vaccine (HealthLinkBC File #12e)
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 that cause the flu. To learn more see Hand Washing: Help Stop the Spread of Germs (HealthLinkBC File #85)
Influenza Policies and programs
- Influenza Prevention Policy
- Influenza Control Program: Frequently Asked Questions – Influenza Vaccine
- Influenza Control Program: Frequently Asked Questions – Masking
- Influenza Policy for Visitors
- Influenza Policy for Contractors and Health Service Providers
- Influenza Policy for Managers
- Influenza Policy for Volunteers
BC Centre for Disease Control
BCCDC provides health promotion and prevention services, and diagnostic and treatment services to reduce communicable and chronic disease, preventable injury and environmental health risks. BCCDC also provides analytical and policy support to government and health authorities.
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 flu clinics across the province or to learn more about the flu and the flu vaccine, click on the links below.
Government of Canada
Get answers to many questions about the seasonal flu, including causes, symptoms, risks, treatment and prevention.
Last updated: September 2021
Information in the Influenza Health Feature is adapted from Health Canada - National Advisory Committee on Immunization, accessed August 05, 2021, the BCCDC: Vaccines in BC, accessed August 05, 2021 and ImmunizeBC - Influenza, accessed September 11, 2020.