Canada gears up for the 2019 flu season

As the fall season approaches, the Public Health Agency of Canada has already seen cases of flu around the country. Health experts predict that there will be a typical flu season this year.

Flu season in Canada usually starts in the fall. Its peak is seen sometime between late December to early February.

According to an assistant professor at Dalhousie University and an influenza virologist at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, Alyson Kelvin, experts from the country usually refer to what’s happening in the Southern hemisphere to predict what the upcoming flu season would be like.

Canadian experts usually refer to Australia and its flu season which usually happens when it’s summer in the Northern hemisphere and winter down under.

“We can kind of look to see what’s going on there and generally there are trends seen in our later flu season,” said Kelvin.

In 2019, the flu season in Australia kicked off very early. There were a lot of reported cases at the start of the season. While it has since decreased, the overall number of cases is still high. In Australia, there have 257,359 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza so far this year.

“It looks like there were these large numbers of cases early, early in the season and everybody, of course, started worrying and panicking about it because it meant, ‘Oh no it’s going to be a bad year this year and everything else,'” said the chairman of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Queen’s University, Dr. Gerald Evans.

The new data collected in Australia indicates that while the country’s flu season is uncommon, it is, perhaps, determined by its distinct geography and it doesn’t happen anywhere else.

“We have not seen any of that stuff in the other Southern Hemisphere countries. So not in New Zealand, not in Chile and Argentina and not in South Africa, which are the other countries that typically report their flu season data,” adds Evans.

According to a public health physician with Public Health Ontario, Dr. Michelle Murti, there would be a lot of cases in Canada if the flu season began as early as Australia’s.

“We’re sort of seeing their usual seasonal levels for this time of year. We’re not entering the season in the same way they did. What that means in the end, we don’t know. But I think that’s so far a better sign for us that we’re not entering it at the high levels that they came in at,” Murti said.

The flu season in Canada likely to begin at its usual time. It usually starts in October and will peak at the end of December.

Kelvin said that based on signs, the upcoming flu season in Canada won’t be so bad. In Australia, there were a lot of flu cases but only a few people experienced serious cases.

Those who have high risks of getting influenza should consider getting the flu shots as soon as the vaccine is available.

“The good news is that even though they had a higher number of reported cases, that when we actually measure influenza severity, which is the number of hospitalizations and deaths, their rates were quite low,” said Kelvin.

The Canadian public is advised to get flu shots. Those who have high risks of getting influenza should consider getting the flu shots as soon as the vaccine is available. This is especially important for older folks including those who are 65 years old and above.

Children under five and pregnant women should also get vaccinated. Those with underlying health conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and others should consider getting the flu shot as well.

“The flu shot is useful for everyone in terms of reducing either the chance of getting influenza and also if you do get it, it should reduce the severity of it by giving some primed immunity to the virus itself,” adds Dr. Evans.

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