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What is Influenza (Flu)?
Influenza (or flu) is a common respiratory illness that affects thousands of Canadians each year.
Risk to Travellers
Travellers are at risk in any country during the flu season. The level of risk depends on the time of year, destination and duration of travel. Crowded conditions may increase the risk of infection. Attending events with large gatherings such as the Hajj, travelling on cruise ships or joining large commercial tours may increase your chance of getting the flu.
- Most people will recover from the flu within 7 to 10 days.
- People over 65, infants and people with chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer are at greater risk of more severe complications, such as pneumonia.
Get vaccinated, wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze and keep shared surfaces clean.
- Increase the amount of fluids you drink (water, juice and soup) and get plenty of rest. Aches and fever can be treated with acetaminophen.
- Antivirals may reduce the symptoms if taken within the first 48 hours after you start feeling sick.
- Can take around one to four days to appear
- Usually include headache, chills and cough followed by fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and throat irritation.
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may occur, especially in children.
- In more severe cases, such as people with chronic conditions, complications such as pneumonia may develop.
- Influenza is spread through droplets that have been coughed or sneezed into the air by someone who is already infected.
- The flu virus is also found on the hands of people with the flu and on surfaces they have touched.
- Crowded conditions may increase the risk of infection. Attending events with large gatherings such as the Hajj, travelling on cruise ships or joining large commercial tours may increase your chance of getting the flu.
Where is Influenza (Flu) a Concern?
- Influenza occurs worldwide.
- In the northern hemisphere the flu season usually runs from November to April. There may still be occasional cases or outbreaks at any time of the year.
- In the southern hemisphere the flu season is between April and October.
- In the tropics influenza is a concern year round.
Consult a doctor, nurse or health care provider, or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
1. Get vaccinated
- This is the most effective way to protect yourself from the flu.
- The flu shot can prevent illness in about 70% to 90% of healthy people, and prevents illness in about 30% to 60% of healthy people when it is not a good match*.
*Each year a new vaccine is created based on what experts predict will be the circulating strain of influenza for the coming year
4. Keep shared surfaces clean.
- Clean doorknobs, telephones and other surfaces that many people touch on a regular basis.
- Fightflu.ca, Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
- Information on Influenza, Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
- Information on Influenza, World Health Organization (WHO)
- It's Your Health - Influenza (the "flu"), Health Canada
- Statement on Travel, Influenza, and Prevention, Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel (CATMAT)
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