Snow or rain, it’s still flu season

[attach]6693[/attach]Toronto is currently mired in one of the more serious flu seasons in recent years says Toronto Public Health’s Dr. Irene Armstrong.

She says there have been an estimated 1,309 lab-confirmed cases of the flu as of Jan. 20, compared to an average of 314 cases at the same time over the past five years.

Armstrong says she has no explanation as to why there has been such a spike in flu activity.

“Every year is different,” she says. “It is hard to predict what kind of season it will be.”

The flu is a respiratory illness that causes a variety of symptoms like fever, muscle aches, sore throat and fatigue among others according to Toronto Public Health.

Armstrong says getting the flu shot is the best defense against the virus but she cautions that not all recipients of the vaccine will be protected from all forms of the flu.

“The flu shot is a good thing but it’s not perfect,” she says. “Eighty percent of healthy adults are protected, whereas 60 to 80 percent of healthy children will be protected.”

She also recommends the shot because of the severity of the virus that is currently circulating.

“The strain of the flu that we are seeing this year is likelier to cause more complications [than in years past],” Armstrong says including ear and lung infections, dehydration and a high fever.

Groups that are most susceptible to these complications include children, seniors and people with serious health conditions, but Armstrong adds that healthy individuals can experience them as well.

Other ways of protecting against the virus include frequent washing of hands with soap and keeping hands away from the face.

Toronto Public Health also says an individual should stay at home if ill with the flu to avoid its spread.

The flu season typically begins in November and is expected to continue until April, says Armstrong.

The vaccine is free to anyone six months of age and older and can be received at flu clinics across the city.