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Influenza activity in the country is below expected levels for this time of the year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Warm weather could be factor in slow flu season. Here's why


Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Sunday, December 20, 2015, 8:18 PM - It's the time of year when the flu season sends many Canadians to bed. However, it looks like warm weather is helping to keep us healthy.

Influenza activity in the country is below expected levels, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The majority of laboratory detections and hospitalizations have been in seniors older than 65, the agency reports.

Outbreaks generally start as early as October and can last as late as May. However, it is common for the flu season to peak in North America between this time of year and February, as holiday gatherings tend to be the perfect place for the virus to spread.

In addition, there is low influenza activity despite the fact the flu vaccine is reportedly only providing 30 to 50 per cent protection from the most common strain: influenza A (H3N2).

The agency reports from December 6 to the 12, four new laboratory confirmed outbreaks occurred, with two in long-term care facilities.



Credit: Public Health Agency of Canada

It's difficult to compare year-to-year because there are so many factors involved, Calgary's medical officer of health Judy MacDonald told the CBC.

"Last year at this time we were in the throes of influenza. Lots of influenza occurring in the community. Lots of outbreaks. This year activity is quite reduced. But winter hasn't really arrived yet and influenza is still coming."

One theory among scientists is that flu peaks in the winter because people spend more time indoors, with the windows closed and minimal air circulation. With mild weather trending across Canada, conditions have been favourable to spend more time outdoors.

Others argue that winter's darkness and the lack of Vitamin D weaken immune systems, making people more susceptible to the virus. Another theory is the flu thrives in the cold, dry air of winter, while suffering in warm and humid air. 

Medical officials urge Canadians to get the flu shot as the advantages are much greater than any possible risks associated with getting the vaccine.

Here are a few influenza facts provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada:

Causes:

The flu is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs. It is caused mainly by two types of viruses:

  • influenza A
  • influenza B

Contracting:

The flu spreads very easily from person to person. Even before you notice symptoms, you may spread the virus to others. If you have the virus, you can spread it to others by:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • talking

These actions release tiny droplets containing the flu virus into the air. You can become infected if these droplets land on your:

  • nose
  • mouth
  • eyes

Symptoms:

Flu symptoms usually include the sudden appearance of:

  • high fever (39°C and above)
  • cough
  • muscle aches

Other common symptoms include:

  • headache
  • chills
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose

Duration:

It takes one to four days for flu symptoms to appear after exposure to the virus. Most people recover from the flu in seven to 10 days. Others may develop serious complications, such as pneumonia and may need hospital care.

Treatment:

Mild flu symptoms can be treated with:

  • rest
  • fluids
  • medicine to reduce any fever or aches

Find a clinic where you can get the flu vaccine or get further information here.

Source: FluWatch report | Popular Science | CBC

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