The Public Health Agency of Canada reminds travellers to take precautions to avoid catching the seasonal flu, which includes getting the flu shot prior to travel and recommends that individuals who have an acute respiratory illness either before leaving Canada or while abroad should delay travel to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
Where is Seasonal Influenza a Concern?
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide.
• In the northern hemisphere the flu season usually runs from November to April. There may still be occasional cases or outbreaks at any time of the year.
• In the southern hemisphere the flu season is between April and October.
• In the tropics the flu is a concern year round.
Consult a doctor, nurse or health care provider, or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
1. Get Vaccinated
This is the most effective way to protect yourself from the flu. This year, the seasonal flu vaccine protects against H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A viruses and one strain of influenza B virus.
2. Avoid getting the flu or spreading it to others
• Wash your hands frequently:
- By washing your hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds, you will reduce your chance of getting the flu.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be used if soap and water are not readily available. It’s a good idea to keep some with you in your pocket or purse when you travel.
• Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:
- Cover your mouth and nose with your arm, not your hand, to reduce the spread of germs. Remember if you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.
• Avoid contact with people who appear to be sick.
• See your health care provider before you travel to discuss:
- Whether you are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations and what vaccines you need for your destination.
- What you should do if you are at risk of severe illness from the flu virus. At risk groups include: those with chronic health conditions, people of any age who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities, people 65 years of age and older, children six months to five years of age, pregnant women, and Aboriginal peoples.
• Pack a travel health kit
3. What to do if you get sick
• If you are ill with the flu before you leave Canada or while abroad you should delay your travel.
• Stay in your accommodations or hotel (while travelling) or at home (if back in Canada) and avoid contact with others until you are feeling better.
• Remember that access to adequate medical care abroad may be limited.
• A list of physicians can be obtained through the nearest Canadian Embassy or consulate. Consult the web site of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for further information.
• If you are travelling in, or return from a country where malaria is present and you develop flu-like symptoms, seek medical help immediately.