Printer-friendly version   



Jan. 16, 2013

Ministry of Health
Office of the Provincial Health Officer



The facts on influenza and norovirus in B.C.


VICTORIA - Throughout British Columbia, seasonal illnesses are making people sick. Influenza and norovirus are hitting areas of the province particularly hard – here are the things you need to know to protect yourself and your family. For more information or to speak with a nurse, call 8-1-1, toll-free, from anywhere in B.C.


What do I do if I am sick?

The most important thing to do is stay home and rest – this will help you recover, and will help to prevent you from spreading germs throughout the community. Both influenza and norovirus will generally go away on their own, without the need for medical intervention.


However, if you have questions, call 8-1-1 to speak to a nurse, 24/7.


If possible, do NOT go to your emergency department. In most cases, you will not need to see your doctor. Do seek medical attention if you experience difficulty breathing or other signs of severe illness.


Avoid visiting hospitals or long-term care homes and stay home from work or school if you are sick – especially if you have not been vaccinated against influenza.


If you or someone in your family has norovirus, isolate yourself as best as possible, and ensure you clean washrooms or spills of vomit with a mild bleach solution to effectively kill the virus.


What is the difference between influenza and norovirus?

Influenza is a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle aches and pains and headache. It can last up to two weeks, though some symptoms could last longer. Influenza can cause severe illness or death in some people, including older people, the very young, people with chronic illnesses and people who have compromised immune systems.


Norovirus is a gastrointestinal illness that causes stomach pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It is unrelated to influenza, and typically only lasts 24 to 48 hours. It is very rare to have complications or severe illness with norovirus infection.


How do I prevent myself from getting sick?

The influenza vaccine will help to prevent you from getting the flu – it is available for free for those at increased risk of complications from flu or those who have close contact with those at increased risk. (Go to  for more on where you can get your flu shot). It’s not too late to get a flu shot!


You should also wash your hands several times throughout the day, and always after using the washroom and before eating or preparing food. Use warm water and soap, and scrub your hands for at least 30 seconds. If soap and water is not readily available, alcohol-based hand rubs can be used.


For more information, visit:

·         For info on influenza:

·         For norovirus:

·         Or call 8-1-1.





Ryan Jabs

Media Relations Manager

Ministry of Health

250 952-1887



Connect with the Province of B.C. at: