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This is the year to get vaccinated! How can you prevent the spread of the flu?

The flu virus spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing. People can also get the flu by touching objects or surfaces with the virus on them and then their mouth or nose.

Here are some tips to prevent you and your family from getting or spreading the flu:

  • Get the flu shot
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds
  • Use an alcohol-based hand rub if there is no soap and water
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean shared objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches or keys often.
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Do not share food, drinks or personal items like toothbrushes
  • Rest, sleep, exercise and eat nutritious food

·       Flu and COVID-19

·       Will there be flu along with COVID-19 this Fall and Winter?
  • While we may see lower rates of seasonal flu because of our continued public health practices of masking, handwashing and physical distancing, it is still likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading in our community this Fall and Winter. For this reason, getting your flu vaccine will be more important than ever. The Public Agency of Canada recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. It takes about two weeks after getting the flu vaccine to develop optimal protection, so it is important to get your shot before flu is circulating widely in the community.
·       Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
  • It is possible to have seasonal flu (as well as other respiratory illnesses) and COVID-19 at the same time. Experts are still studying how common this can be and what risks it may pose. Your best defence against the flu is the flu shot. There is no vaccine for COVID-19 however practicing physical distancing, proper handwashing, and wearing a mask, are strategies recommended to help reduce your risk of COVID-19.
·       Why is getting a flu shot more important this year?
  • The flu shot significantly reduces your risk of illness, hospitalization, and death caused by an influenza virus. Getting a flu shot can also shorten the duration and severity of flu symptoms if you do become ill. The flu shot itself cannot cause the flu.
  • Flu season often puts an extra burden on the health-care system, so it is important that people do what they can to reduce their chances of getting it. Hospitals and health-care facilities could become overwhelmed if they need to treat both flu and COVID-19 patients.
  • It is especially important this year that those at high risk of critical illness from influenza and from COVID-19, including seniors and people with underlying health conditions, receive the flu vaccine to reduce the need for a greater number of critical hospital beds.
·       When can I get my flu shot this year?
  • The flu shot is expected to be available at its usual time in Hamilton this year, in early October.
  • October and November are good times to get vaccinated to ensure that protection is optimal when influenza is circulating and especially when it is peaking (typically in January). Getting vaccinated in July or August can be too early, especially for older people, because of the likelihood of reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season.
  • There will be widespread communication to let our community members know as soon as flu shots are available this year.
·       Will there be changes in how and where flu shots are given this Fall and Winter?
  • How and where people get a flu vaccine will change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamilton Public Health Services is working with local healthcare providers and pharmacy partners to develop plans on how to vaccinate people against flu without increasing their risk of exposure to respiratory germs, like the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Some settings that usually provide flu shots, like workplaces, may not offer vaccination this upcoming season because of the challenges posed by physical distancing requirements. However, some new locations and options for vaccination will be introduced to help ensure flu shot availability for our community.
    Flu shots are not yet available for 2020-2021 – they are expected to be available in early October.
·       Will a flu shot protect me against COVID-19?
  • Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however flu vaccination has other important benefits. The flu vaccine is your best defence against getting the flu. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. Getting a flu vaccine this Fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your own risk from flu but also to help protect our healthcare system by lowering the number of people with respiratory illness in our community.
·       Will the flu shot put me at greater risk of getting COVID-19?
  • There is no current evidence that shows a link between the flu vaccine and an increased risk of getting COVID-19.
·       What is the difference between flu and COVID-19 symptoms?
  • Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses (there are different strains of flu virus). Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.

    Flu and COVID-19 have some shared symptoms, but there are also some key differences between the two. Below is a graphic outlining the symptoms of each:

Note: Symptoms of COVID-19 and of flu can vary from person to person. Some cases of flu or COVID-19 can lead to severe illness or death.  However, both flu and COVID-19 can also have mild symptoms and some people with COVID-19 can have no symptoms at all (asymptomatic). If you are concerned you may have either infection, contact your public health about testing.

·       What should I do if I feel sick with symptoms of flu?
  • If you feel sick, even with mild symptoms of flu or COVID-19, STAY HOME from school, work and other activities. Contact your primary care provider if you have one to discuss your symptoms and arrange for COVID-19 testing if appropriate. You can also contact Public Health at 905-974-9848 to arrange a COVID-19 test.
  • If your symptoms are getting worse, even if you have received a negative COVID-19 test result, seek reassessment through your primary care provider, an urgent care location or the emergency room. If you need immediate emergency medical attention, call 9-1-1.
·       Can I get tested for flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
  • The current guidance from Public Health Ontario is that anyone tested at a COVID-19 assessment centre will be screened ONLY for COVID-19 and not flu.

    People who are hospitalized with flu or COVID-19 symptoms will be tested for both viruses. Other people may be eligible for co-testing under certain circumstances such as an outbreak in a long-term care facility. Testing decisions will be made based on provincial guidelines.

  • Contact your primary care provider if you have symptoms of either flu or COVID-19 to discuss your symptoms and arrange for appropriate testing if necessary.
·       Is COVID-19 worse than the flu?
  • Flu and COVID-19 can both cause serious illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization or death. Currently the data shows that COVID-19 is more dangerous than seasonal influenza. Here is how the seasonal flu compares to COVID-19:

  • This graphic helps highlight how the viruses are different based on current data. It is important to know that comparing COVID-19 to seasonal flu is not like comparing apples to apples. There is still relatively little data available on COVID-19 when compared to flu data. There is also the potential for partial immunity and pre-exposure for the population to flu since it has been around longer and there is a vaccine available. Both viruses are of public health concern.
·       Is there a COVID-19 vaccine at this time?
  • There is no vaccine for COVID-19 at this time. Many scientists continue to work towards a vaccine in countries around the world.
·       Will the flu shot have an impact of the effectiveness on a COVID-19 vaccine, should one be developed soon?
  • They are different viruses and will require different vaccines. The flu vaccine produces specific immunity against flu strains, while an effective COVID-19 vaccine would provide protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus