In Canada, the flu season usually runs from November to April. This is why it is important to get your flu vaccination between October and December, before the number of cases of flu increases.
The number of cases of the flu varies from year to year. It will depend on:
- How actively infectious the strains of flu are in that year
- How closely the flu vaccine matches the flu strains
How careful people are to avoid getting the flu
The Public Health Agency of Canada and the US Centers for Disease Control both advise that the best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get an annual flu vaccine. If the vaccine and the flu strains are a good match, the vaccine can prevent the flu in about 70%-90% of healthy children and adults. Approximately 3-7.5 million Canadians will get the flu in any given year.
What are the health consequences of the flu?
Most of these people will recover fully in about a week or 10 days, but some may develop serious complications. Approximately 20,000 Canadians are hospitalized because of the flu and its complications each flu season; between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians, mostly seniors, will die from pneumonia related to the flu and other serious complications of the flu.
The following groups of people may be at greater risk of developing complications from the flu, if they do get sick:
- Children less than five years old (especially those less than two years old)
- Women who are pregnant
- People with chronic conditions such as:
o Heart disease
o Liver disease
o Kidney disease
o Blood disorders
o Severe obesity
o Asthma and chronic lung disease
o Immunosuppression (people taking cancer drugs
or people with HIV/AIDS)
o Neurological disorders
- Aboriginal people