A Booming Start to the Flu Season

By: Coriandre Lawrence

It can begin with a tame sneeze and a slight rub of the nose. At that point, the thought of what’s happening doesn’t even cross your mind. Then the aches set in, slowly creeping up your back and into your shoulders. Afterward comes the dreaded rise in body temperature. Yup, it’s official: you have the flu, the early symptoms anyway.

This health predicament can be commonplace if you aren’t diligent during the flu season, and this year the sniffle-starter has arrived early so be prepared.

The Public Heath Agency of Canada reported that so far this flu season, which began in November, there are a total of 3,864 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza across the country. And, in the first week alone, there were 26 reported cases, 19 of which were adults 65 years of age and five adults aged 45 to 64. With that kind of start, it doesn’t look pretty for boomers this season. And with reports that hospitals across the nation are seeing increased patient traffic as a result of influenza it’s time to flu-proof yourself. Every year the public is warned and PSAs point out that children and the elderly need to take extra precaution. And the announcements are warranted; according to a news release issued by the Ministry of Health, the immune system weakens as you get older making people over the age of 65 more susceptible to influenza. In the release deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Gregory Taylor relayed the importance of keeping high-risk individuals safe and addressed doubts the public may have surrounding flu shots.

“It’s especially important for these high-risk individuals and those at close contact with them such as health care workers, household contacts and caregivers, to protect themselves from the flu,” he said.

“The flu shot is safe and effective and offers the best protection against the flu virus for you and your family.”

With that in mind, here are recommendations provided by the Ministry of Health to help prevent catching the flu this season.


1. The best way to avoid the flu: Get the flu shot.  It’s free.
The flu shot helps your body build the defenses it needs to protect you from the flu. It can prevent the flu from taking hold up to 90 per cent of the time among healthy adults and children.

2. Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often.
Proper hand cleaning guards against and limits the spread of many illnesses. Viruses can live on your hands for up to five minutes and they can live on hard surfaces – like counter tops and telephones – for up to two days. Wash hands for at least 15 seconds.

3. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy.
Hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60 per cent alcohol to be effective. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are as good as soap and water to clean your hands. But if your hands are visibly dirty, wash with soap and water.

4. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
Cough into your upper sleeve if you don’t have a tissue. The droplets that come out when we cough or sneeze can carry the flu virus and land on other people or surfaces.

5. Stay home from work if you are sick.
When you’re not feeling well, the best thing you can do for your own health and the health of your co-workers is to stay home.

6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
The flu virus usually enters the body through the eyes, nose or mouth, and your hands touch objects and surfaces that may have viruses on them, including the flu virus.

7. Avoid large crowds of people where viruses can spread easily.
This might be a challenge when you’re shopping and socializing during the holidays. Stay aware of your health and the health of others when you’re out and about. Avoid people who are sneezing and coughing and wash your hands regularly.

8. Clean germ-spreading surfaces like purses or gloves.
These items come in contact with contaminated surfaces when you set them down on areas like tables and countertops, spreading germs and viruses. Wipe these surfaces with disinfecting cleaner regularly.

9. Eat well, exercise and get enough rest.
Keeping your immune system strong will lessen your chances of getting sick. Eat well, exercise regularly and get enough sleep to keep your health in top shape.

10. Did we mention get your flu shot?
We can’t emphasize this enough. The flu shot is the most effective way to avoid the flu. Get the vaccine for free at your doctor’s office.