The Underappreciated Burden of Flu Among Canada’s Older Population


It’s all too easy to put off getting the flu shot thinking that you won’t get the flu, or that if you do, it won’t be that bad.

The reality is, even healthy adults over 65 can get sick enough from the flu to end up hospitalized. Older adults, aged 65 and older, only represent about 17% of Canada’s population but in the 2017-2018 flu season, they accounted for 65% of hospitalizations and 86% of deaths due to flu.

Catching the flu can be particularly severe in those with chronic health conditions like lung disease or heart disease. The flu can trigger shortness of breath in those with existing lung diseases such as asthma, or even a dreaded pneumonia infection. Perhaps the most concerning is the flu’s ability to worsen chronic heart conditions; it is a known trigger for heart attacks and strokes in people with existing heart disease.

Getting the flu shot is the MOST effective way to prevent the flu. Getting vaccinated also helps protect those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

It is important to note that those who get the flu shot:

• Are more likely to be protected against the flu compared to those who are unvaccinated
• Are protected against several different flu strains

Vaccination does not protect 100% of individuals and does not reduce the risk of complications such as hospitalization once a person gets influenza.