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Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory illness caused by viruses that affect the nose, throat and lungs. Flu season, the peak time for influenza, is November through April each year.

The flu shot is your best defence to protect yourself and your family against the flu.

How do you get the flu?

The flu is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing, or by touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus.

To protect yourself from the flu you can:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and running water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Frequently clean and disinfect common surfaces and items
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Get your flu shot


Symptoms usually start one to four days after being exposed to the virus. Most people will recover in seven to 10 days. Individuals in high-risk groups could experience more severe complications.

You may have the flu if you have:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Extreme weakness and tiredness

Cold or Flu?

The flu is often confused with the common cold (rhinovirus).

Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.

In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense.


Flu-related complications can affect anyone but they are more common for those in a high risk group. This includes:

  • Older adults (people 65+ years)
  • Children under five years old
  • Pregnant women
  • People with underlying health conditions

Complications from the flu can include pneumonia, which is a serious illness. It is estimated that flu causes approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada each year.


Flu vaccine

Anyone aged six months and older who works, lives or goes to school in Ontario is eligible to receive the flu vaccine.

Where to get the flu shot:

  • Health care providers
  • Pharmacies (must have a health card and be five years of age or older)
  • Walk-in clinics

Flu Shot Myths and Realities


Weekly Influenza Reports

For Haldimand and Norfolk 

For Ontario

For Canada