The cooler temperatures and shorter days signal a changing season, and the unfortunate arrival of cold and flu season here in Canada. While the success of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout along with some ongoing restrictions means many communities are well protected against severe illness and infection due to COVID-19, the coronavirus vaccine is not proven to protect individuals from endemic illnesses like the flu. Here’s what you need to know about staying protected.
What to Expect
Flu experts look to the experience of countries in the Southern Hemisphere like Australia where winter arrives first to get an idea of how heavy or light flu season is expected to be in other parts of the world. Australia’s flu rates remain historically low in 2021, likely because of COVID-19 controls. So what does this mean for Canadians? While that is good news, health officials are concerned that with fewer restrictions in place and more people gathering together indoors, that cold and flu cases could be at more “normal” levels across the country this year.
What You Can Do
These unknowns sound scary, but the good news is that many of the measures we are familiar with to limit COVID-19 help protect us from seasonal colds and flus as well. Both the flu and COVID-19 are spread by respiratory droplets, so as long as we all remember to do careful handwashing, masking indoors, physical distancing and staying home when we aren’t feeling well throughout our traditional flu season, experts are hopeful that we won’t experience a double endemic this year.
Also, the Public Health Agency of Canada is recommending more than ever that all Canadians over six months of age get their annual flu shot. A flu vaccine won’t prevent COVID-19 of course, but getting vaccinated will reduce your chance of catching the flu or passing it on to others, make your symptoms less severe if you do get sick and will protect you from getting both viruses at the same time. The flu vaccine is safe and effective and like last year, any change in flu numbers and severity could make a difference to hospital capacity.
The overlap of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza further adds to the uncertainty we are all feeling as a result of this ongoing pandemic. As we enter flu season, what you can do is stay focused on what we know works—social distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask. And though no one is sure what Canada’s flu case count will look like this winter, experts agree that after nearly two years of battling COVID-19, making sure as many people as possible get flu shots is more important than ever.
For more information about the flu and where to get your shot, please visit Ontario.ca/flu.