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Flu season in Canada: what you need to know

North America's first reported H5N1 case comes as winter flu activity rises

Last Updated: Jan. 9, 2014

Flu sneezes

The annual winter flu season is in full gear, leaving some Canadians feeling achy and feverish.

Each year, thousands of flu cases are confirmed by public health officials — countless more go unreported — as the virus spreads from human to human.

Interest in the flu spiked in January with the news that Canada reported its first case of the H5N1 bird flu.

However, there is no evidence of easy human transmission for this particular virus. Health officials also stress it is not the same as the much more widespread seasonal flu.

Flu strains in Canada

Two types of influenza cause seasonal epidemics: A and B. These are further defined based on the hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N) proteins on the flu virus.

As the Public Health Agency of Canada numbers below illustrate, the H1 subtype has been dominant in Canada so far this season among almost 3,000 confirmed flu cases.

Totals for 2013-'14 season are current as of Dec. 28, 2013 — except for H5N1 case, which was reported on Jan. 8, 2014.

Flu cases across Canada: latest figures

Select any province or territory to see a more detailed regional breakdown.

Definitions of categories from Public Health Agency of Canada

No activity: No laboratory-confirmed influenza detected, but scattered reports of influenza-like illness possible.

Sporadic: Scattered instances of influenza-like illness. Lab-confirmed influenza detected, but no outbreaks detected.

Localized: Increased reports of influenza-like illness. Outbreaks in schools, hospitals and/or other types of facilities in less than half the affected region.

Widespread: The outbreaks occur in more than half of the affected region.

Graphic: How the flu attacks the body

H5N1 flu by country

About 650 cases of H5N1 have been reported globally over the past decade, with 60 per cent of them fatal.

Source: World Health Organization

Sources: CBC News stories, Public Health Agency of Canada, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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