Flu season at St. Michael’s

Our first priority is the safety of our patients and staff, and that includes protecting our patients and staff from influenza (flu). The flu can be dangerous to hospital patients. Here’s what you need to know.

      + What is influenza?

Influenza, often called the flu, is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by the influenza virus. It can spread around the world in epidemics and causes serious illness as well as death. In Canada, the influenza season usually begins in October and can last until August. Symptoms can include cough and fever, runny nose, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and lack of appetite.

      + How is influenza spread?

Influenza spreads easily from person to person through breathing, coughing and sneezing. The virus can also spread when a person touches tiny droplets from coughs and sneezes on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth, eyes or nose before washing their hands.

      + What is the flu shot?

The flu shot is a vaccine that protects against some strains of the influenza (flu) virus. Because flu strains change every year, so does the flu shot. The most effective way to prevent the spread of the flu is by getting a flu shot and washing your hands regularly. To learn more about the flu shot, visit www.ontario.ca/page/flu-facts.

      + Where can I get a flu shot?

You can get a flu shot from your family doctor, or at most pharmacies. St. Michael’s doesn’t offer flu shots to hospital visitors.

      + Who shouldn’t get the flu shot?

  • Infants six months old and younger
  • Individuals with severe allergic reactions to egg or egg proteins or any component of the vaccine – check with your doctor
  • Those with history of neurological illness such as Guillan-Barre syndrome

      + How is the flu shot made?

The influenza vaccine (flu shot) is made from particles of killed flu viruses. It contains three different types of influenza viruses (two types of influenza A and one of influenza B). A person who receives the flu shot develops immunity for the types of flu in the vaccine. The body needs about two weeks to build up protection to the virus, and this protection may last four months or longer.

The flu vaccine is 70-90 per cent effective in healthy individuals and usually protects well for at least six months. In the elderly, young people and people with weak immune systems, chronic heart and lung diseases it is approximately 40 per cent effective and usually protects for only four months.

People with influenza are contagious for one to two days before symptoms start – this is the most common cause of spread within health care institutions. Many people can also have mild symptoms which are often mistaken for the common cold.

      + When is flu season?

Flu season is declared at St. Michael’s when our Infection Prevention and Control team and Toronto Public Health confirm that influenza is widely circulating in the community. It usually begins in early December and ends by April.

      + I think I might have the flu.

  • If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue or shortness of breath, please stay home: do not visit the hospital. Contact your doctor’s office to determine what type of care you need.
  • If your doctor’s office is closed or if you don’t have a family doctor, call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 to speak to a nurse who will help with any health-related question. Telehealth is free and open 24 hours a day.
  • As always, if your condition is serious, visit your nearest Emergency Department.
  • To find health care options in your community, visit ontario.ca/healthcareoptions or call 1-866-330-6206.
  • If you don’t have a health-care provider, you can register for the Health Care Connect Program or call: 1-800-445-1822.

      + How can I protect myself and others?

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly in warm, soapy water or use hand sanitizer
  • Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy
  • Cough and sneeze in your arm, not your hand
  • Keep common surfaces and items clean and disinfected
  • Stay home if you’re sick. Contact a health care provider if your symptoms worsen
  • Get your flu shot!

Thank you for helping us protect our patients and staff from the flu.

Have more questions? Additional information can be found at: