As flu season makes its annual appearance in Canada, health experts are noticing a positive trend: the number of reported cases is significantly lower than in previous years. While influenza activity is increasing, it is still below average and remains below the seasonal threshold levels.
Last year, at this time, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) had already announced the start of an influenza epidemic. However, this season is showing a much slower start, with fewer reported cases. Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre, states that the numbers are below what they had last year.
The typical flu season in Canada occurs from autumn to winter, with cases starting to increase around late October. The peak usually happens between December and February, although the timing can vary each year.
According to the latest report from PHAC, there have been 3,065 reported cases of influenza across Canada from August 27 to November 11. The majority of these cases were influenza A. Additionally, there have been 184 flu-associated hospitalizations, 21 admissions to the intensive care unit (ICU), and six deaths.
It is worth noting that last year’s flu season saw much higher numbers during the same time period. From August 28 to November 12, 2022, there were 8,273 reported influenza cases, with the majority being influenza A. Hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and influenza-associated deaths were also significantly higher.
While the current numbers are lower than those of the previous year, experts like Dr. Mark Loeb from McMaster University stress that the virus is unpredictable. It is still too early to make predictions about how the flu season will unfold and whether it will peak.
Dr. Conway believes that the lower numbers this year could be due to the influence of COVID-19 on the spread of the virus. Last year was the first year without pandemic-related restrictions before the start of the respiratory virus season, resulting in a more exuberant flu season.
To maintain low influenza numbers in Canada, health experts strongly advise getting a flu vaccination, especially for high-risk individuals. The flu shot is designed to combat the common strains of the flu and can help reduce the severity of symptoms and hospitalizations.
It is important not to become complacent with the lower numbers and continue practicing preventive measures such as staying home when sick, practicing good hand hygiene, and wearing masks when necessary. Getting vaccinated and following these precautions can help protect individuals and the community from the flu.
1. Why are the numbers lower this flu season?
Experts believe that the lower numbers this year may be influenced by the prior impact of COVID-19 on the spread of the flu virus.
2. How can individuals protect themselves from the flu?
Getting a flu vaccination is the most effective measure to protect against the flu. Other preventive measures include staying home when sick, practicing thorough handwashing, and wearing masks when necessary.
3. Who is at high risk for severe flu complications?
Individuals aged 65 years and older, as well as young children, are at higher risk for severe flu complications. It is especially important for these groups to get vaccinated.
4. What strains does this year’s flu shot protect against?
This year’s flu shot is designed to combat four strains of the flu: influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2) and influenza B (B/Victoria and B/Yamagata). The majority of current flu cases are attributed to H1N1.
– Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC): URL