The flu (influenza
) is not just a bad cold. It is much worse. Flu causes fever, headaches, general body aches, and weakness, along with stuffy nose, sore throat, and cough. People with flu usually feel quite sick for 5 to 10 days, but the cough and weakness may last up to 6 weeks. Influenza is very contagious and can be transmitted easily to people at high risk of developing complications. Influenza is caused by a virus; antibiotics are not effective in treating the flu.
The flu vaccine is recommended for nearly everyone, even healthy adults. Among elderly people and people with chronic diseases, the flu vaccine can prevent complications that might otherwise kill them. Serious complications include pneumonia, kidney failure, and heart failure. Between 500 and 1,500 people in Canada die from influenza every year.
For younger healthy people, the flu vaccine is important for several reasons: to prevent transmitting the flu to someone who is at high risk for complications; to prevent transmitting the flu to your household and workplaces; to avoid lost time from work; and to prevent the personal distress and disruption of having the flu.
A new shot is required each year because there are several types of influenza virus and the viruses mutate or change over time. A new vaccine is developed each year to protect people against the flu virus that is most likely to cause disease in Canada for the coming winter.
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