Canada has officially confirmed the country is in the midst of an influenza (flu) epidemic, which means we are all at greater risk than usual of catching the flu and spreading it to others.
According to data collected by Canada's FluWatch, influenza and influenza-like illnesses reported an 11.7 per cent positivity rate in the week ending Nov. 5. This is an increase of 6.3 per cent from two weeks earlier.
“If you haven't had your flu shot yet, I encourage you to talk to your nurse practitioner, or visit your health centre or local pharmacy and get one," said FNHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shannon McDonald. “The flu shot is free and gives you the protection you need to avoid serious illness."
November is typically flu season in Canada, however last year there were not many cases thanks to COVID-19 restrictions – including mask mandates and limited gatherings – that ensured viruses could not spread as easily.
Now that there are no COVID-19 restrictions in BC, the risk of catching the flu is much higher. However, the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic can be useful in avoiding the flu today.
“Just as wearing a mask during the pandemic offered that extra level of protection against catching COVID-19, wearing a mask now can be just as helpful against influenza," said Dr. McDonald. “If you're attending a gathering, working in a building with many co-workers, riding on public transit, or grabbing something at a crowded store, wearing a mask can lower your risk significantly."
“Of course, getting the flu shot is going to be your best protection. With the risk of COVID-19 still out there, along with other seasonal viruses, getting vaccinated is a huge bonus for your immune system."
An influenza epidemic has the potential to increase hospitalizations and further strain health care resources.
We encourage you to take the following steps to protect loved ones and stay well during the flu epidemic:
FNHA: Influenza (Flu) Vaccine FAQs
FNHA: The Flu Shot. A healthy choice (PDF)
BC Government: Find a flu clinic near you (outside community, i.e., off reserve)