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Questions and Answers About Influenza

Q What is influenza?
A Influenza is an infection in the airways (throat, lungs, etc.).
Q Is it the same as the “flu”?
A Commonly know as “the flu”, its real name is influenza.
Q What is stomach flu?
A There is no such illness as 'stomach flu'. Stomach upsets can be caused by other viruses and microorganisms.
Q What causes influenza?
A Influenza is caused by the influenza virus.
Q How is it spread?
A The influenza virus spreads from one person to another in the spray from coughs and sneezes or through contamination of the hand by secretions.
Q What does it do to you?
A Influenza causes headaches, chills, a dry cough, body aches and fever. A bout of influenza can leave you bedridden 5 to 10 days. Full recovery may take up to 6 weeks. It also lowers your body's ability to fight off other infections, which can lead to pneumonia or bronchitis.
Q How often can you get it?
A A person can have influenza more than once. Here's why: The virus that causes influenza may belong to one of three different influenza virus families, A, B or C. Within these families there are a variety of strains.
Q How do you prevent it?
A The best method of influenza prevention is immunization. Another very important measure of prevention is regular, thorough handwashing.
Q What is an epidemic?
A An epidemic is an outbreak of disease that spreads within a specific region and/or country.
Q What is a pandemic?
A A pandemic is a sudden, widespread outbreak of a new strain of the influenza virus that has significant morbidity and mortality and is easily transferred between humans.
Q When did pandemics occur?
A In the 20th century, there were three pandemics, in 1918-1919, 1957-1958 and 1968-1969. The current H1N1 influenza pandemic began on June 11, 2009.
Q When will we have another pandemic?
A On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic.
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Q How many people have died in pandemics?
A The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 (Spanish Flu) claimed well over 20 million lives, while each of the 2 other influenza pandemics of the 20th century had death tolls in the hundreds of thousands.
Q How many Canadians die as a result of influenza every year?
A Every year in Canada, seasonal influenza and its complications lead to an average 4,000 deaths and 20,000 hospitalizations.


Reference

Canadian Immunization Guide. Evergreen edition. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/cig-gci/index-eng.php (external link)