Flu season has begun in Canada: PHAC


The Public Health Agency of Canada says flu season is officially underway in this country.

The rate of tests that were positive for flu stayed above the agency’s threshold of five per cent for two consecutive weeks.

As of Nov. 25, 7.5 per cent of people tested for influenza across Canada were positive.

Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Allison McGeer says the number of cases is climbing and there will be a lot of flu circulating in a few weeks.

McGeer says that means now is a good time to get the flu shot, since it takes about two weeks to prime people’s immune systems.

She says the dominant strain now will be influenza A type H1N1, which is a good match for the current vaccine.

Not all provinces and territories are reporting a five per cent positivity rate yet. For example, Public Health Ontario’s latest flu surveillance report said the rate was 2.8 per cent as of Nov. 25 in that province.

But Ontario and other provinces will soon catch up and those rates will increase, McGeer said in an interview on Friday.

“The flu season starting now tells you that there’s going to be a lot of flu at the end of December and the beginning of January,” she said.

“That’s when you want to be out with your friends and doing a bunch of things and, you know, flu is capable of making that time quite miserable.”

Many adults have some level of resistance to H1N1 flu strains, so it “tends to cause a lot of disease in kids, especially unvaccinated kids,” McGeer said.

She added that “emergency departments and pediatrics … take more of the pressure” during H1N1-dominant flu seasons.

Although McGeer said it’s important for people to get their flu vaccines, she’s even more concerned about the levels of COVID-19 that are circulating this year.

Friday’s surveillance report from Public Health Ontario showed a test positivity rate of 20 per cent for COVID-19 in that province.

In addition to test positivity, wastewater surveillance and hospitalizations show climbing COVID-19 cases in Canada, McGeer said.

“Just because we’ve stopped talking about people being hospitalized with COVID does not mean that people aren’t being hospitalized with COVID,” she said.

“At the rate we’re going, there will be more people hospitalized with COVID and more people dying from COVID this year than last year,” McGeer said, noting that a low uptake of the new COVID XBB-variant vaccine is worrisome.

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