Healthy Living in the North

What is the flu, anyway?

mother; child; vaccination

Immunizations are safe and effective and are one of the best ways to help protect you from illness and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

As a public health nurse, I have had several years’ experience immunizing and educating the public about influenza and the vaccines used to protect the spread of this persistent virus. I find myself answering the same questions and dispelling the same myths year after year.

It is not uncommon to hear someone tell me how they received the flu vaccine before and it didn’t work. When asked to describe their illness, I hear all about their unfortunate bout with the “stomach flu.” Hours or days spent hugging the toilet and unable to eat a bite. It is unfortunate that the influenza virus is lumped into the same category as the “stomach flu;” better known as gastroenteritis, which is caused by other pesky organisms (though easy to see how this is a point of confusion!).

Influenza is also commonly mistaken for the common cold; similar in that it is also an upper respiratory infection, however, the common cold does not typically last as long as influenza or cause the same serious complications.

So what is seasonal influenza anyway?

Seasonal influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is an infection caused by the influenza virus which affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Other viruses, such as the common cold, can also affect the upper respiratory tract, but, unlike influenza, they often do not cause severe and life threatening complications (such as hospitalizations, pneumonia, bronchitis, and death). Some people are more at-risk for influenza complications, including those with certain health conditions, young children, pregnant women, and people over the age of 65.

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

Healthy people can get sick from the flu and spread it to others. Even if you do not get sick, you can still spread influenza to those who are more at-risk for complications from the flu virus. Immunizations are safe and effective and are one of the best ways to help protect you from illness and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

You can contact your local physician, health unit, or pharmacy for more information on the flu and vaccinations. You can also access local clinic information on the BC flu clinic locator. Other places for more information include HealthLink BC and Northern Health’s influenza information.

Were you aware of the differences between seasonal influenza and the common cold?

Kyrsten Thomson

About Kyrsten Thomson

Based in Terrace, Kyrsten is a public health communications liaison nurse. Her role focuses on promoting immunization awareness and supporting internal and external communications. Kyrsten moved to Terrace seven years ago after graduating with a nursing degree in Ontario. As a student, she knew public health was her passion, especially work in health promotion and community development. She fell in love with the north and all the fantastic outdoor activities right at her fingertips. Since moving to the north, Kyrsten has started a family, taken up hiking, running, and enjoys spending summer days at the cabin.