Influenza (Flu)

⚠ COVID-19, influenza and RSV will continue to circulate in our community. Assess your risk, stay on top of respiratory virus activity.

Flu vaccination

The flu is a viral infection that can have severe complications. Anyone can get the flu virus. The flu is not just a cold. You could miss school, work, parties, holidays, or even end up in the hospital. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and over. This year with the presence of COVID-19 circulating in the community, it is especially important for high risks groups to get the flu vaccine to reduce the potential risk of having COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. Getting your annual flu vaccine is an important way to help protect yourself, your family and high risk groups in your community against seasonal flu. It will also help reduce the burden on Canada’s health care system during respiratory illness season. The flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, but it will help reduce your risk of getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Having both illnesses at the same time could put you at a higher risk for severe illness. 

Frequently asked questions

Where can I get my flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are available at participating pharmacies for anyone 2 years and older and community doctors or nurse practitioners for anyone 6 months of age or older. Vaccine availability may vary by provider. Please contact your local pharmacy to ensure vaccine availability.

People may be required to provide proof that they live, work, or attend school in Ontario to receive the publicly funded flu vaccine. Many different identification (ID) documents are accepted to prove eligibility (such as health card, mail with name and address, pay stub, student card). Having a health card is not a requirement, however, some health care providers may request one for their services.

What is the flu?

The flu, or seasonal influenza, is a common contagious infection. The flu affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It is spread through droplets that have been coughed or sneezed by someone who has the flu. You can get the flu by shaking hands with someone who has the flu or by touching surfaces that have come into contact with flu droplets, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Flu symptoms include a sudden fever or feeling feverish as well as a cough and/or a sore throat. It is common to also have a runny or stuffy nose, headache or body aches, and chills. You may feel more tired than usual and have a lower appetite. Some people (mostly children) also have nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Most people will recover within a week to 10 days, but some people are at greater risk of severe complications, such as pneumonia or death. Influenza infection can also worsen certain chronic conditions, such as heart disease. Although the burden of influenza can vary from year to year, it is estimated that there are an average of 12,200 hospitalizations related to influenza and approximately 3,500 deaths attributable to influenza annually in Canada.

Preventing the flu

You can help protect yourself against the flu by getting the flu vaccine. The earlier you get the vaccine, the better your chances are to prevent getting the flu virus. The flu is a viral infection that can have severe complications. Anyone can get the flu virus. The flu is not just a cold. You could miss school, work, parties, holidays, or even end up in the hospital.

The flu vaccine helps your body help itself. The vaccine will trigger your body to fight off infection if you come into contact with the flu. This means you either will not get the flu virus, or the symptoms will be greatly reduced. Each year, different strains of the flu virus appear. Scientists predict which strains will be most likely to affect us for the coming year. These strains are used to make up the year's flu vaccine. This is why it is important to be immunized with a flu vaccine each year, in the fall.

Getting your flu vaccine is good for everyone. When more people get their flu vaccine, the odds of the flu virus spreading goes down. This protects those who are most vulnerable such as children under five, adults 65 years or older, pregnant women, as well as those living with chronic health conditions like diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.

Along with getting your annual flu vaccine, you can help stop the spread of the flu, and protect yourself and your family by following a few easy steps:

  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home and workplace.
  • Wear a mask:
    • To protect yourself from viral respiratory illnesses.
    • To protect others at higher risk of severe respiratory illness.
    • When you’re recovering from illness.

Types of publicly funded vaccines

Age groups who are eligible to receive publicly funded vaccines:
Age group Quadrivalent Inactivated Vaccine (QIV) 
FluLaval Tetra
Quadrivalent Inactivated Vaccine (QIV) 
Fluzone® Quadrivalent
QIV-HD
Fluzone® High-Dose
Quadrivalent
TIV-adj
Fluad®
six months to 64 years of age year  yes  yes  no  no
65 years or older  yes  yes  yes  yes

FluMist® Quadrivalent (AstraZeneca) is authorized for use but it is not publicly funded in this 2023-2024 flu season.

Children six months to under nine years of age who have never had a flu vaccine in their life require two doses of the flu vaccine, given at least four weeks apart. Children six months to less than nine years or anyone older who received one or more doses of seasonal flu vaccine in the previous year, should receive one dose of flu vaccine per season thereafter.

The standard-dose quadrivalent inactivated vaccine (QIV) continues to be a good option for individuals six months of age and over, including adults over the age of 65 years.

The QIV protects against four flu strains: two different flu A viruses and two different flu B viruses. TIV (Trivalent Inactivated Vaccine) protects against two different flu A viruses and one flu B virus. 

Ottawa Public Health no longer has TIV-adj or QIV-HD vaccine in our clinics; there continues to be a supply of QIV in our clinics 

Community health care providers and pharmacies may have limited supply or be out of TIV-Adj or QIV-HD supply but have QIV available. Contact your local pharmacy or health care provider to find out if the flu vaccine is available. 

The TIV-adj and QIV-HD vaccines were supplied from the ministry early in the flu immunization season, when older adults became eligibleVaccine supply is ordered based on use in previous seasons through the Ministry of Health and distributed to public health units. We still have supply of QIV and this vaccine is recommended for anyone 6 months and older including older adults. As per the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI): All QIV, QIV-HD, and TIV-adj vaccines protect people 65 years old and over against the flu and the most important thing is for older adults to be vaccinated. 

Canadian Immunization Guide Chapter on Influenza and Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2023-2024

Vaccine precautions

The flu vaccine is safe for anyone 6 months of age or older who does not have a contraindication to the flu vaccine.

  • The flu vaccine is safe and recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Persons with egg allergy can safely receive any influenza vaccine and do not need any special precautions or testing.

You should not get the flu vaccine if you are:

  • Feeling ill? You can get the flu vaccine when you are feeling better.
  • Someone who has had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any of the components of that specific flu vaccine before (with the exception to egg). Consideration may be given to offering another flu vaccine that does not contain the implicated component.
  • Someone who has had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous flu vaccine:A consultation with an allergist is recommended prior to flu vaccination
  • Someone who has developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of a previous flu vaccination, unless another cause was found for the GBS. You may be referred to a physician in this case.

Administration of flu vaccine with other vaccines

All seasonal influenza vaccines may be given at the same time as, or at any time before or after, administration of other routine vaccines including the COVID-19 vaccine in individuals 6 months of age and older, with two exceptions below:

Arexvy® (RSV Vaccine)

An interval of 2 weeks between influenza vaccine and Arexvy® is recommended.

Imvamune® (Mpox Vaccine)

An interval of 2 weeks between influenza vaccine and Imvamune® is recommended; except when Imvamune® is required for post-exposure prophylaxis. 

Testing & Treatment

Most people who get influenza (the flu) don’t need medical treatment and can manage their symptoms at home. Individuals at higher risk of becoming very sick from the flu may be able to get antiviral medication to lessen the severity of the symptoms and help prevent complications. You do not need to test positive for the flu to receive antiviral medication for the flu. 

Those at higher risk for complications from the flu include adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and women up to four weeks post-partum, and those with underlying medical conditions. 

If you have flu-like symptoms and you are at higher risk you can contact your health care provider when your symptoms start. In most cases, antiviral medication should be started within the first 48 hours (about 2 days) of when symptoms started.  

Don’t have a primary care provider? You can talk to your local pharmacist to inquire about antiviral treatment availability.

Reports

Dashboard updated weekly on Wednesdays (except on statutory holidays).

The dashboard provides an overview of respiratory infections, respiratory outbreaks, and enteric outbreaks in Ottawa for the current respiratory surveillance season (the 12-month period from about September through August). To control both COVID-19 and influenza and keep our community safe, we ask that all residents continue to follow public health measures. Please also visit our respiratory virus page.

For information on influenza activity across Ontario see the Ontario Respiratory Virus Tool, and for Canada see the FluWatch report. Regional syndromic surveillance data on Influenza like Illness (ILI), including hospital admissions and emergency department visits, can be accessed through the Viral Respiratory Mapper.

 

The following data tables are available for download on Open Ottawa:

COVID-19

Updated daily

Updated weekly

Archived

Influenza

Updated daily

Updated weekly

RSV

Updated daily

Updated weekly

Respiratory-related ED Visits

Updated weekly

Enteric Outbreaks

Updated daily

 

Supporting documents:

 

To enter the Power BI report using a keyboard, press Tab once after the "full screen mode" link and press Ctrl + Enter. A small box will appear in the top left corner of the report. Press Tab three times to navigate through the options and you will then be inside the report. From here you can navigate the content of the report using Tab and the other keyboard shortcuts enumerated in the Keyboard Shortcuts document.

 

Having trouble viewing the report? Try the full screen mode.

Previous season (2020-2021)

Influenza activity in Ottawa residents was minimal in 2020-2021. Percent positivity did not exceed 5% for at least two weeks in a row. COVID-19 public health measures in 2020-2021 are believed to have greatly reduced influenza activity during the 2020-2021 Influenza season.

 

Past Seasons from 2013-2014 to 2018-2019

Graph of the number of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases in Ottawa, by influenza season, from 2013-2014 to 2018-2019

 Graph showing the number of laboratory confirmed cases of influenza by flu week. The graph shows six curves representing the influenza cases of the previous six seasons. The figure has been converted into a table below.

Date ranges for influenza surveillance (flu weeks) weeks change slightly each season. For ease of interpretation, only 2018-2019 flu week date ranges are captured in the epidemiological curve above. Visit the FluWatch Weeks Calendar for the current season's flu week date ranges.

Data
 Figure Data Table

 Week

2013-2014

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

2017-2018

2018-2019

wk 35

0

0

0

1

0

0

wk 36

0

0

0

0

2

0

wk 37

0

0

0

1

0

0

wk 38

0

0

0

1

1

1

wk 39

0

0

3

0

1

0

wk 40

0

0

0

0

0

1

wk 41

0

0

1

1

3

0

wk 42

0

1

1

0

0

5

wk 43

0

0

1

0

1

2

wk 44

2

0

0

1

0

3

wk 45

0

1

1

2

0

1

wk 46

0

0

0

1

4

5

wk 47

0

0

1

2

3

3

wk 48

4

5

1

5

9

6

wk 49

7

7

4

10

3

17

wk 50

6

21

1

14

13

8

wk 51

24

51

5

42

25

8

wk 52

33

65

4

60

36

20

wk 1

47

97

3

61

72

30

wk 2

45

98

7

50

85

39

wk 3

30

74

5

39

76

42

wk 4

20

56

14

34

59

37

wk 5

11

63

18

38

62

40

wk 6

16

53

29

35

89

37

wk 7

6

46

41

28

106

46

wk 8

6

49

54

25

118

38

wk 9

4

26

56

27

117

42

wk 10

5

34

61

16

72

31

wk 11

13

44

63

25

46

38

wk 12

12

38

23

12

41

26

wk 13

10

24

24

19

39

18

wk 14

9

12

19

11

36

31

wk 15

12

14

14

12

28

36

wk 16

17

14

13

11

13

22

wk 17

12

10

11

14

8

14

wk 18

7

14

9

7

8

14

wk 19

11

2

12

1

5

5

wk 20

8

3

2

7

2

6

wk 21

18

0

3

2

0

9

wk 22

5

0

2

2

0

2

wk 23

2

1

0

1

1

1

wk 24

0

0

0

0

0

2

wk 25

0

0

0

1

0

2

wk 26

1

0

0

1

0

1

wk 27

0

1

0

0

0

1

wk 28

0

0

0

0

0

0

wk 29

0

0

0

2

0

0

wk 30

1

0

0

0

0

1

wk 31

0

0

0

0

0

0

wk 32

0

0

0

0

1

0

wk 33

0

0

0

0

1

1

wk 34

0

0

0

0

1

0

Dominant Influenza Strain(s) & Key Flu Activity Periods
 

2013 - 2014

2014 - 2015

2015 - 2016

2016 - 2017

2017 - 2018

2018 - 2019

Dominant influenza strain(s)

A/H1N1

A/H3N2

A/H1N1

A/H3N2

A/H3N2 and B/Phuket (Yamagata lineage)

A/H1N1 and A/H3N2

First week of flu season

Dec 1-7, 2013*

Nov 23-29, 2014*

Jan 17-23, 2016*

Nov 27- Dec 3, 2016

Nov 26- Dec 2, 2017

Oct 14 – 20, 2018

Week of maximum % test-positivity

Dec 29, 2013 - Jan 4, 2014*

Dec 28, 2014 - Jan 3, 2015*

Mar 6-12, 2016*

Dec 25-31, 2016*

Feb 25- Mar 3, 2018*

 Jan 27 – Feb 2, 2019

Maximum % test-positivity

29.1%*

34.5%*

34.3%*

19.4%

34%

 19.8%

Peak week of flu season±

Dec 31, 2013 - Jan 7, 2014

Jan 7-14, 2015

Mar 10-16, 2016

Dec 31, 2016 -Jan 7, 2017

Peak 1: 
Jan 7-14, 2018

Peak 2:
Feb 18-24, 2018

Feb 10 – 16, 2019
Laboratory-confirmed Influenza Cases
 

2013 - 2014

2014 - 2015

2015 - 2016

2016 - 2017

2017 - 2018

2018 - 2019

Median age

54 years

78 years

45 years

71 years

72 years

62 years

Total flu cases

404

924

506

622

1187

693

Flu A cases (%)

300 (74%)

769 (83%)

402 (79%)

544 (87%)

689 (58%)

666 (96%)

Flu B cases (%)

104 (26%)

153 (17%)

104 (21%)

78 (12%)

492 (41%)

23 (3%)

Hospitalizations

106

234

149

113

Not available

Not available

Deaths

9

27

7

11

21

6

Institutional Respiratory Outbreak
 

2013 - 2014

2014 - 2015

2015 - 2016

2016 - 2017

2017 - 2018

2018 - 2019

Total respiratory outbreaks

73

156

78

132

148

115

Flu A outbreaks

20

91

14

44

42

38

Flu B outbreaks

8

11

3

3

37

3

Non-influenza outbreaks

45

54

61

85

62

74

Hospitalizations

Not available

179

17

46

96

50

Deaths

Not available

48

5

19

34

14

Influenza Immunization (flu vaccine)
 

2013 - 2014

2014 - 2015

2015 - 2016

2016 - 2017

2017 - 2018

2018 - 2019

Vaccine doses distributed in Ottawa

390,640

380,309

379,333

379,241

392,603

434,564

Vaccine effectiveness (95% CI)¥

68%
(58-76%)

9%
(0-27%)

46%
(32-57%)

45%
(31-56%)

42%
(22-55%)

56%
(47-64%) 

Archived Seasonal Respiratory Infections and Enteric Outbreaks Surveillance Reports

2019-2020 Influenza Season

2018-2019 Influenza Season

Data Notes

The data presented are current as of Sep 3, 2019.  Unless otherwise stated, information included in this table was extracted from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS) database by Ottawa Public Health (OPH). iPHIS is a dynamic disease reporting system that allows for ongoing updates to data previously entered. Data extracted from the iPHIS database represent a snapshot at the time of extraction and can be different in previous or subsequent reports.

Influenza cases and respiratory infection outbreaks in institutions and public hospitals meeting Ontario Ministry of Health (MOH) case definitions for Diseases of Public Health Significance (DPHS), according to Ontario Public Health Standards: Requirements for Programs, Services, and Accountability (Standards): Infectious Diseases Protocol, are presented. In the City of Ottawa, laboratory confirmation testing of influenza is performed by Public Health Ontario Labs (PHOL) or Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association (EORLA). Changes to DPHS reporting requirements or case definitions, as well as variability in influenza laboratory testing and reporting algorithms at can limit the ability to compare across influenza seasons.

* Influenza laboratory test-positivity data for influenza seasons prior to the 2016-2017 season are unavailable for the City of Ottawa. Ontario data, available from Public Health Ontario (PHO) and accessed here, are included as proxy measures.

First week when 5% or more of samples submitted for laboratory testing were positive for influenza.

Highest % of samples submitted for testing that were positive for influenza during a single week.

± Week when the highest number of new influenza cases were reported to OPH, by accurate episode date.

Deaths and hospitalizations are limited to line-listed resident or patient cases from influenza outbreaks in institutions and public hospitals. Influenza infections are not confirmed through laboratory testing for all line-listed cases, as per MOH reporting case definitions. Generally, up to four sample are tested, the remaining outbreak cases are assumed to be caused by the same respiratory pathogen.

¥ Flu vaccine effectiveness data are based on the Canadian Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance Network (SPSN) influenza vaccine effectiveness estimates accessed here.

 

The report provides an overview of the influenza activity in the City of Ottawa during Influenza Season. For information on the influenza season across Ontario see the Ontario Respiratory Pathogen Bulletin, and for Canada see the FluWatch report. Regional syndromic surveillance data on Influenza like Illness (ILI), including hospital admissions and emergency department visits, can be accessed through ILI mapper.

Related information

 

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