Whether it’s snow for the mountain lovers or puddles for the kids to splash in, as the wet and cold weather hits our province, we start to think about all that it brings, including its challenges, namely respiratory illness season.

It’s hard to fathom that this is our second fall/winter living with COVID-19. The good news is we’ve been through this before, so we aren’t in the same place as this time last year. We have learned a lot about COVID-19, and we have the best protective measure now with vaccination and relatively good uptake in BC.

We also have the BC Vaccine Card that provides us with both protection and a stronger sense of comfort. That said, we still have to be diligent this fall and winter because COVID-19 is not the only virus that can wreak havoc in the coming months.

Respiratory illness season means an increase in transmission of certain viruses like influenza (flu) and rhinoviruses (common cold). One reason is because people are spending more time indoors, where they are in closer contact with poorer ventilation than they would outdoors. Plus, this year the population is likely now more susceptible to the influenza virus because COVID-19 measures last year essentially eliminated flu season.

We also know that the respiratory illnesses that flourish in the colder months are showing up early, and strong. Like other respiratory illnesses, COVID-19 also appears to spread more easily in the fall and winter.

However, the same things that protect us from COVID-19 transmission also protect us from other illnesses, especially influenza. Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay home when sick—let’s reinforce these measures over the coming months—and vaccination is an imperative measure at this time, especially for those who may be more vulnerable, and for eligible children. Did you know that everyone six months and older can get a flu vaccine?

BCCDC Foundation staff members Kim Acedo & Lisa Young were happy to get their influenza vaccine!

Because the symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 can be similar and lead to hospitalizations, this year, it is also more important than ever not only to protect yourself and the people around you, but to help reduce the burden on the healthcare system. Vaccination is the best way to avoid this and protect our healthcare resources. And if you’re wondering if it’s okay to get your COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time? The answer is yes!

Recognizing symptoms is also important. Use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool and learn more about symptoms, how contagious you may be, and what to do. It’s also important to get tested as COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses can have overlapping symptoms.  

Keeping healthy and safe because of COVID-19 means not just physically, but considering your mental health needs too. Prioritize your social connections, your self-care, and your communities. Perform acts of kindness—doing things for others is good for population health, and for our own wellbeing.  

To help us all prepare, we offer some tips and guidance to help you keep yourself, your loved ones, and your community safe and healthy over the coming seasons.

To Activate Health follow these best practices for staying safe and protecting others:

Much of this is simply a reminder—a reminder that we need to continue to take the measures to keep ourselves safe, but also a reminder that in doing all this over the coming months, we will be getting one step closer to changing our world from a state of pandemic to one of endemic—this means one step closer to learning to live with COVID-19 in more normal ways.

We know this season is still going to be hard. Maybe harder than last year in some ways. So, it’s important to not only prepare for our physical health, but also our emotional and mental health too; our social connections, our activities, our compassion, and our commitment to our communities will help us weather the storms, literally and figuratively.

Let’s all Activate Health together this fall and winter, to keep everyone healthy and focused on wellbeing as much as possible, and to stay safe so we can enjoy our beautiful British Columbia communities, together. 

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