The influenza, or “flu”, virus infects the respiratory tract and is responsible for 2,000 deaths in Canada each year — more than from any other infectious disease. The virus is spread via droplets expelled when we talk, breathe, cough or sneeze and it can also live for hours on surfaces at home, school, work, on public transportation, and so on.
Flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, severe headache, full-body aches and fatigue. Occasionally these can be mild and, since the infection can be spread even before symptoms become apparent, people may continue with their daily lives and spread the illness to others without realizing it.
A healthy adult will need 7 to 10 days, or more, to fully recover from the flu but the infection can also result in serious complications. Children under 5, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions are most at risk.
So what can you do to stay healthy?
1. Get the flu shot
• It’s not too late! Furthermore, the more people who get vaccinated, the fewer chances there are for the virus to spread and the less likely it is that someone who is particularly vulnerable will become infected.
• The flu shot is very safe, and much safer than the potential complications of influenza, even for a healthy person. The vaccine has been given to hundreds of millions of people every year since the 1940s when it was first developed, and the most common side effect is minor: a sore arm.
• Most importantly, the sooner you get it, the sooner you and your loved ones will be protected.
2. Take preventative actions to stop the spread of germs
• Avoid being with sick people and, if you become unwell, limit contact with others as much as possible
• Clean your hands thoroughly and often — ideally with soap and water, but keep alcohol-based hand rub within easy reach for when that’s not possible
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth because germs spread that way, and cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm — not into your hand
• Be conscientious about cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs
3. Take care of yourself and keep your immune system strong
• Eat healthy, nutritious foods
• Keep physically active
• Get plenty of sleep