Flu season hits Ottawa early

Ottawa germophobes beware: flu season has begun.

Time to stock up on hand sanitizer and tissue

Ottawa Public Health says this year's flu season officially began Dec. 4. (CBC)

Ottawa germophobes beware: flu season is already upon us. 

According to Ottawa Public Health the season started early this year, with the official arrival date of Dec. 4. 

A total of 26 lab-confirmed cases of the flu have been reported this season, the agency said Monday. 

The median age for people affected by the virus is 71 years old.

Flu season arrived early last year as well, swamping clinics across the city with feverish patients over the holidays. 

And this year the flu strain Ottawa is dealing with is one that doesn't usually arrive until February. 

The Ottawa Public Health website notes that different strains of the flu show up every season. Scientists predict the strains that are most likely to be spread in the coming year, and use these strains to create the flu vaccine for the coming season. 

Vaccinations are offered through health-care providers, family doctors, pharmacies and community clinics. 

Ottawa Public Health will be offering free clinics by appointment for children six months to five years old — the age range with the highest rate of serious illness and death from the flu — and their families until early February 2018.  

Aside from getting the flu shot, other ways to prevent spreading the flu include washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs with your arm instead of your hand and staying home and avoiding crowds if you are sick.