I woke up this morning with that all-too-familiar scratch in the back of my throat. The cold weather finally crept up on me.
I'm not the only one. I can't help but notice many of my friends, family, and colleagues got sick or are getting sick as we speak. It's official: welcome back flu season!
Last year, the flu ravaged North America.
The culprit: a particularly nasty strain of the flu called H3N2. The vaccine Canadians received last year was not particularly effective at combatting this pernicious strain.
As a result, in the United States alone an estimated 80,000 people died from the flu in 2017. According to a report by CNN, it was the deadliest season in more than four decades. Only in 1976 did fatalities surpass those of last year.
In Canada, by December 2017, alone, health officials reported 11,277 laboratory-confirmed cases with 70 percent attributed to H3N2.
So what's in store for Canadians this year?
According to a report by Global News, health professionals predict that it will likely be milder than last year's. Phew.
Health professionals look to the Southern Hemisphere as a means to predict flu trends for the northern hemisphere.
Reportedly, the predominant influenza strains this year have been H1N1 and Influenza B, which cause much milder symptoms than last year's brutal H3N2.
However, the big caveat to this whole flu prediction thing is that the virus can mutate as it makes its way to the northern hemisphere.
As Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital, stated for CTV that “flu season is predictably unpredictable."
Health Canada has an entire section of their website dedicated to "Flu Watch."
The government releases a weekly report outlining the incidents of the flu across each Canadian province.
This week's report shows low flu activity in general. However, some provinces are already experiencing incidents of the virus popping up.
Notably: B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec. To check out Health Canada's entire Flu Watch Report click HERE.
The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
In Quebec, if you have private insurance you can get vaccinated with your family's health care provider. If you don't have insurance, you can get vaccinated at no cost at any integrated health and social services centers (CISSS) across the province. Click here for more information.