Frequently Asked Questions (Flu / Influenza)

How do I protect myself from getting the flu?

The single most important step you can take to prevent spreading the flu is to wash your hands often, especially after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing, and before handling food. Other steps that you can take include:

  • avoiding direct contact with people who have the flu;
  • getting a yearly vaccination of the flu shot to avoid getting or lessening the severity of the flu; and
  • not sharing eating utensils or drinks.

How does the flu spread?

The flu can be spread through droplets of respiratory tract secretions from people who are sick:

  • by breathing in the virus when a sick person sneezes, talks or coughs; or
  • after close contact with an infected person or touching something that they have handled, carrying the virus to your own nose, eyes or mouth through your own hands.

What are the possible side effects from the flu shot?

Most people have little or no reaction to the vaccine. Redness and swelling may occur at the site of injection for one or two days. Some people may experience mild fever, tiredness or muscle aches within 6 to 12 hours after immunization. This may last anywhere between one to two days.

What does the flu shot cost?

Currently, the flu shot is offered free of charge to NWT residents.

What is the flu?

The flu is an illness caused by the influenza virus which:

  • affects your lungs and airways;
  • is very contagious and spreads easily between people; and
  • usually lasts 5-7 days, but cough and tiredness can last several weeks.

The flu usually causes:

  • fever lasting 3-4 days
  • chills
  • muscle and joint aches
  • headache
  • dry cough
  • fatigue
  • sore throat
  • runny nose

What should I do if I get the flu?

If you get the flu:

  • stay home;
  • drink lots of fluids - water and juice are best;
  • rest;
  • wash hands often;
  • humidity (warm showers, baths, cool humidifier);
  • cough medicine may be helpful;
  • gargle with warm water; and
  • take acetaminophen (Exdol, Panadol, Tylenol, etc.) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.). These are two different analgesics. (Note: Use this medication as per the directions in the Do I Need To See the Nurse/Doctor self-care handbook).

When should I get the flu shot?

You should get the flu shot in late October or early November. Taking the flu shot in the latter part of fall provides optimal protection throughout the typical flu season, which is usually from December to April in the NWT.

Where can I get the flu shot?

For information on when and where to get flu shots, please contact your local community health centre or public health unit.

Who should get the flu shot?

Although everyone can benefit from the flu shot, the NWT Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that priority be given to the following risk groups:

  • adults aged 65 or older;
  • adults and children with chronic cardiac or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma) severe enough to require medical follow-up or hospital care;
  • adults and children with chronic conditions such as diabetes or other metabolic diseases, cancer, immunodeficiency (including HIV infection), renal disease, immunosuppression, anemia and hemoglobinopathy;
  • persons of any age who are residents of nursing homes or other chronic care facilities;
  • children and adolescents (aged 6 months to 18 years) with conditions treated for long periods with acetylsalicyclic acid;
  • persons at high risk of influenza complications who have trips planned to destinations where influenza is likely to be circulating; and
  • any individual with neuromuscular disorders (i.e. multiple sclerosis).
Note:Due to medical reasons, you should NOT get the flu shot if you:
  • are allergic to eggs (chicken eggs are used in the production of the vaccine);
  • are allergic to Thimerosal (a preservative present in the flu vaccine);
  • have had a severe allergic or adverse reaction to a previous flu vaccine; or
  • are a child under 6 months of age.