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Cold and Flu Season and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Cold and flu season is approaching and COVID-19 virus is still a significant concern, with the number of active cases across the country rising every day1. The 2020 cold and flu season will bring new challenges as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 may have similar symptoms and transmission similarities.

What we know about cold and flu season

Cold and flu viruses are more prevalent than we might imagine. In fact, 1 in 3 Canadians have a sore throat, cold or flu in any given month, and 1 in 5 Canadians ignore their symptoms altogether.2

The flu causes the loss of an estimated 1.5 million workdays each year from absences and reduced productivity, at a total cost in each influenza season estimated to be $1 billion per year.3 Researchers state that “preventative measures that result in even a modest reduction in colds and flu would have a significant impact on reducing costs to the healthcare system and impact on the economy.”2

Did you know?

The flu is one of the 10 leading causes of death in Canada4

  • Approximately 12,000 Canadians are hospitalized for the flu each year
  • Approximately 3,500 Canadians die from the flu each year

Transmission and Management

The flu shot is the most effective way to help prevent the flu.4 However, because cold and flu viruses can spread by touching contaminated surfaces as well as by being in close contact with someone who is ill, safeguarding your environment plays an important role in protecting public health. Influenza viruses can survive on hard non-porous surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic for up to 48 hours.5

Furthermore, certain high-touch hard surfaces are especially likely to transmit these viruses. Telephones (48%), keyboards and computer mice (38%) are considered germ hotspots in the office during cold and flu season.6

All of this points to hard surface disinfection, a key part of any cold and flu prevention and management strategy.

The impact of COVID-19 on how we deal with the 2020 flu season

The COVID-19 pandemic creates several challenges for dealing with the upcoming cold and flu season and delivering the seasonal influenza immunization program. There is a need to create measures to avoid transmitting the COVID-19 virus to staff, volunteers and clients, the need for PPE, the risk of COVID-19 resurgence during the period where flu vaccines are being given, risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus when accessing immunization and increased demand for the flu vaccine.7

Infection prevention and control (IPC), including proper cleaning and disinfection procedures are important to reduce the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.7

Is it a cold, the flu or COVID-19?

Colds, the flu and COVID-19 are all caused by different viruses. Here are some of the symptoms you may experience:

COVID-198Flu9Cold10
New or worsening cough
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Temperature of 38°C or higher
Chills
Fatigue or weakness
Muscle or body aches
Loss of sense of smell or taste
Headache
Gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
Feeling very unwell
Children tend to have: Abdominal symptoms, skin changes and rashes
Fever
Cough
Muscle aches and pains
Headaches
Chills
Fatigue
Loss of appetite
Sore throat
Runny or stuffy nose
Some people, especially children, may also have: Diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
Sore throat
Runny nose
Coughing
Sneezing
Headaches
Body aches

It is important to note that symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person and they may vary in different age groups.8

It can be hard to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 when symptoms appear.9 Health Canada recommends that if you start to develop symptoms, follow the same precautions as COVID-19.9

Coinfection and the lessons we can learn from Asia and Australia

There are still many questions about how the flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic will affect each other.9 For example, will coinfection make COVID-19 virus worse? Will flu vaccination protect against COVID-19, or will the procedures put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic help reduce the burden of the flu season?11 While we don’t know for sure what will happen, we can look to Asia and Australia for clues.

Early reports from China indicated that coinfection with other respiratory diseases was rare in COVID-19 patients. However, another report showed that 11.8% of patients with COVID-19 were coinfected with influenza A or B.11

A report from Taiwan indicated that the measures taken to minimize the spread of COVID-19 (wearing masks, social distancing and proper cleaning and disinfection procedures) may help reduce the rate of influenza.11

Australia experienced a record low flu season this year, due in part to an increase in flu vaccinations and also the measures taken to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, such as wearing masks, social distancing and proper cleaning and disinfection procedures.12,13

While the trends seen in the southern hemisphere may provide clues to what the northern hemisphere can expect for the approaching 2020 cold and flu season, we must also be careful not to make assumptions.11

Prepare for the upcoming cold and flu season by taking the appropriate preventative measures and having an adequate supply of cleaning and disinfection products.

Prevention is key.

Following the measures recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and choosing products that clean and disinfect hard non-porous surfaces can help prevent the spread of the viruses that cause COVID-19, cold and the flu.14

Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces to kill the viruses that cause colds, the flu and COVID-19 is essential as we prepare for the 2020 cold and flu season.

The Clorox Company makes disinfectants that are approved for hard surfaces for use against viruses that cause COVID-19, colds and the flu. As your partners in disinfection, you can count on us to provide you with the appropriate products and equipment you need to help reduce the spread of these viruses.

CloroxTotal 360® Disinfectant Cleaner is exclusively for the Clorox Total 360® System and is Health Canada-approved to kill Cold & Flu viruses and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in 2 minutes

To learn more, download our Cold and Flu Guide.

References:

  1. Government of Canada.  Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update.https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html#a1. Accessed September 29, 2020.
  2. Workplace Safety and Prevention Services. https://www.wsps.ca/Information-Resources/Topics/Cold-and-Flu-Season.aspx#downloads. Accessed September 29, 2020.
  3. Ting E, Ungar WJ. Systematic review of the cost-effectiveness of influenza immunization programs: A Canadian perspective. 2015. https://lab.research.sickkids.ca/task/wp-content/uploads/sites/66/2018/06/2015-04-Influenza-FULL-REPORT.pdf
  4. Government of Canada. Flu (influenza): For health professionals. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/flu-influenza/health-professionals.html. Accessed September 29, 2020.
  5. Kramer A, et al. How long do nosocomial pathogens persist on inanimate surfaces? A systematic review. BMC Infect Dis 2006;6:130. https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2334-6-130
  6. Clorox Professional Products Company Survey. May 2015.
  7. Government of Canada. Guidance for influenza vaccine delivery in the presence of COVID-19 https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/immunization/national-advisory-committee-on-immunization-naci/guidance-influenza-vaccine-delivery-covid-19.html
  8. Government of Canada. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Symptoms and treatment https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/symptoms.html. Accessed October 26, 2020.
  9. Government of Canada. Flu (influenza): Symptoms and treatment.https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/flu-influenza.html. Accessed October 26, 2020.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common colds: Protect yourself and others. https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html. Accessed October 26, 2020.
  11. Rubin R. What happens when COVID-19 collides with flu season? JAMA. 2020;324(10):923-25.
  12. Favaro A. What Canada can learn from the Southern Hemisphere’s season of ‘virtually no influenza’ https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/what-canada-can-learn-from-the-southern-hemisphere-s-season-of-virtually-no-influenza-1.5099934.
  13. Pratt, E. Why Australia had a mild flu season and what that means for the United States. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/australia-mild-flu-season-what-means-for-the-united-states#What-it-means-for-North-America. Accessed October 5, 2020.
  14. Public Health Agency of Canada Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/documents/services/publications/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/cleaning-disinfecting-public-spaces/cleaning-disinfecting-public-spaces-eng.pdf. Accessed September 8, 2020

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