SASKATOON — There have been so few cases of influenza this year that Canadian public health officials still can’t declare the official start of flu season.
“Influenza activity remains below the threshold required to declare the start of the 2020-21 influenza season,” reads the latest FluWatch report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). On a national level, flu season typically starts in mid-November.
“All indicators of influenza activity remain exceptionally low for this time of year, despite continued monitoring for influenza across Canada.”
So far this season, there hasn’t been any evidence of community circulation of the virus, nor have any laboratory-confirmed outbreaks of influenza been reported. However, in Canada’s schools and daycares, there have been 117 outbreaks of influenza-like-illness — a broad descriptor where the source may or may not have been the flu.
The news that flu has been seemingly stopped in its tracks is likely welcomed by front-line workers who have spent the past year grappling with staying safe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
PHAC also noted that flu testing and vaccinations were at higher and comparable levels, respectively, to previous years.
Approximately 32 per cent of adults 18 years old and older were vaccinated for the flu, with 70 per cent of seniors 65 years and older being vaccinated, according to the 2020-2021 Seasonal Influenza Immunization Coverage Survey.
According to PHAC, the trend of low cases is likely “influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, including changes in healthcare-seeking behaviour, impacts of public health measures and influenza testing practices.”
There have been so few cases in circulation this season that the National Microbiology Laboratory hasn’t received samples of flu viruses from the 2020-2021 season to examine.