Public health measures taken during the pandemic could also provide a strong line of defence against the upcoming flu season, says the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), which is asking people to continue doing their part to protect each other and prevent the health-care system from becoming overwhelmed.
Influenza, or the flu, is an infection of the upper airway caused by an influenza virus. In B.C., there are generally more outbreaks in fall, winter and early spring.
But Dr. Danuta Skowronski, lead epidemiologist for influenza at the BCCDC, says if British Columbians consistently practise physical distancing and hygiene protocols, the province could experience a milder-than-usual flu season.
According to Skowronski, there is already evidence this year from the southern hemisphere and the tail end of the flu season in B.C. this spring that measures such as maintaining distance, frequent handwashing, donning a mask and staying home when sick can result in a less-than-average number of flu cases.
Flu shot recommended
People at high risk of severe complications or death from COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, are also often high risk for complications from influenza. As both viruses can present the same symptoms, Skowronski said it is important these people in particular receive a flu vaccine.
The flu shot may help prevent you from getting sick with influenza and spreading it to others.
In B.C., the vaccine is available in October or early November and is free for first responders, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions.
If you are not eligible for a free influenza vaccine, you can buy it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.
A mild flu season would mean fewer people with complications from the virus requiring a stay in hospital, at a time when as many beds as possible are being kept available for potential COVID-19 patients.
"We are not striving for zero cases of COVID, we are striving for sufficient health care available to those who need it," said Skowronski on CBC's The Early Edition on Wednesday.
Health Canada estimates influenza causes approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada each year.
To hear the complete interview with Dr. Danuta Skowronski on The Early Edition, tap here.