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Ontario seeing a later start to the flu season: Public Health expert

Flu season looks to be delayed this year, according to Public Health Ontario, which means you should be able to look forward to healthy holidays.

Last year's flu season had been one of worst on record, infectious disease specialist says

Ontario looks to be having a late start to the flu season, an infectious disease specialist says. (CBC)

Flu season looks to be delayed this year, according to Public Health Ontario, which means you should be able to look forward to healthy holidays.

Dr. Jonathan Gubbay said that his public health laboratory has collected only 110 samples of the virus so far, significantly lower compared to this time last year.

The 2014-2015 flu season was one of the worst on record in Ontario, with more than 4,500 people being hospitalized, the infectious disease expert said. Another 350 died of complications.

"But right now it's still too early to say whether we're going to have a quiet year or it's going to be a busy year," he told CBC News in an interview this week.

Still time for the shot

While flu season often begins at the end of November, it can sometimes start as late as the end of December or beyond, Gubbay said.

So people still have time to get the flu shot, which can take up to two weeks to be completely effective after it's administered.

The vaccine protects adults against three strains of the virus and children against four.

The World Health Organization has to predict which strains of the illness will be the most virulent months before people start getting sick in order to manufacture the vaccines. That means all of the strains in the vaccine may match the most common types of the flu circulating in the general population, Gubbay said.

But the hope is that at least one or two of the strains in the vaccine will provide some protection.

This year, about 80 per cent of samples that have been processed show the H3N2 strain of the flu — and Gubbay said that the vaccine does include an H3 strain of the virus so it should provide some protection.

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