Influenza (flu)

As health care workers, St. Joseph's recognizes that it is our duty to do no harm and our responsibility to protect our patients, co-workers, family and community from the spread of influenza. Getting the influenza vaccination is one way we protect the vulnerable people that we serve.

Preventing the spread of flu

We have worked diligently to provide our staff and physicians with the opportunity to be vaccinated through clinics held here at St. Joseph's.

We have also been providing education materials, evidence-based facts and open dialogue to dispel any misconceptions and myths. We have been stressing the seriousness of influenza and encouraging staff to get their vaccination before an outbreak occurs.

You can help prevent the spread of influenza by ensuring that you and your family receive the influenza vaccine yearly.  Hand washing is another important measure in preventing the spread of viruses. Download a copy of the patient guide to influenza.

How you can help

Visitors can help protect reduce the spread of influenza and protect vulnerable patients by:

  • Not visiting if feeling unwell
  • Getting the flu shot
  • Using hand sanitizer
    • Before entering the hospital, the care unit, the patient’s room
    • When leaving patient’s room and the hospital
    • After coughing, sneezing or blowing nose
  • Voughing or sneezing into sleeve
  • Following these steps when visiting a patient in isolation:
    • Not going to other areas of the hospital
    • Wearing mask, eye protection, gloves and gown

Myths and facts about flu vaccinations

Below are some common questions and answers about influenza and the vaccine.


What is influenza?

Influenza (the flu) is a viral disease of the respiratory tract that can cause mild to severe illness. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle pain, runny eyes, nasal congestion, sore throat, extreme weakness and fatigue. Cough is severe and may last two or more weeks; most other symptoms resolved in five to seven days.

<return to top>


How is influenza spread?

Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets and contact with secretions. Droplet spread occurs when someone with influenza coughs or sneezes into another person’s eyes, nose or mouth. Influenza is spread in the environment when people cough or sneeze onto surfaces, or touch surfaces with contaminated hands. The virus can be spread to others before symptoms develop.

<return to top>


What are my requirements as a St. Joseph’s visitor/patient during influenza season?

If you are sick or feeling unwell with symptoms of a respiratory illness and your appointment visit can be put off, you should not come to the hospital.


Can the influenza vaccination give me the flu?

The influenza vaccine will not give you the flu as it does not contain a live virus. At the time of year the flu vaccine is given, many viruses are circulating and illnesses caused by these other viruses can be mistaken for the development of influenza.

<return to top>


Is the influenza vaccine safe?

The influenza vaccine has been administered to the public for greater than 50 years, and is safe for most people. Check with your primary care physician for more information.

<return to top>


Are there side effects to the flu vaccine?

The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that may occur are:

  1. Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  2. Fever (low grade)
  3. Aches

<return to top>

What are the benefits of the flu vaccine?

  1. Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick form the flu.
  2. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults. Older people with weaker immune systems often have a lower protective immune response after flu vaccination compared to younger, healthier people. This can result in lower vaccine effectiveness in these people.
  3. Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
  4. Vaccination was associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who had had a cardiac event in the past year.
  5. Flu vaccination also has been shown to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease
  6. Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy. Getting vaccinated can also protect a baby after birth from flu. (Mom passes antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy.)
  7. Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick.
  8. Getting vaccinated yourself also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

<return to top>

Do I need to get the flu shot every year?

Yes. Flu viruses change from year to year, which means three things:

  1. The vaccine made to protect you from the circulating flu virus strains one year may not protect against the virus strains circulating the next year, which is why the flu vaccine is updated yearly.
  2. You can get the flu more than once during your lifetime.
  3. Protection (immunity) from the previousyear’s flu vaccine may wane over to12 months and no longer be effective the next year.

<return to top>

When is the best time to get the flu shot and how long does it last?

The best time to get your influenza vaccine is early, between October and December, before the number of influenza cases increase in Canada.

Full protection against influenza takes about two weeks from the time you get the shot and can last up to 12 months.

<return to top>

What is St. Joseph’s current staff and physician influenza vaccination rate?

Staff are encouraged to receive their flu shot to be protected in advance of influenza in our community. Staff vaccination clinics began in October. To date, 51.4 per cent of staff and physicians have received the vaccination during the campaign.

<return to top>

Related information

Information adapted from Control Communicable Diseases Manual, APHA, 2008; CDC Influenza website, 2016.