Peak flu season is just around the corner in Quebec

As the Quebec government pledges millions to combat a new wave of hospital emergency room overcrowding, doctors are warning we're still weeks away from the peak of the flu season.

Meanwhile, there are also worries about the effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine — Dr. Karl Weiss, the head of the infectious disease department at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital, told La Presse earlier this week the vaccine created for this year will most likely be around 10 per cent effective.

Annual flu vaccines tend to be a hit-and-miss proposition — in recent years, effectiveness rates have varied between 40 and 70 per cent, with the exception of 2014-15, where the flu shot turned out to be completely useless.

CJAD 800's medical expert Dr. Mitch Shulman, meantime, even a flu shot that offers 10 per cent protection is still worth getting.

"10 per cent protection is always better than no per cent protection, right?" Dr. Mitch says. "And when we say 10 per cent it doesn't mean it give you 10 per cent and it gives someone else 10 per cent. It means that some people might get complete protection; other people may not get much protection at all."

The strain that appears to be making its way to Quebec is the H3N2 influenza strain, which made its way through the southern hemisphere during their winter. Typically, flu vaccines take about six months to produce, during which time the virus may have changed.

Nonetheless, Dr. Mitch says even now, it's worth getting the shot — especially for small children, the elderly, or anyone with a chronic condition such as asthma.

In the meantime, he suggests people should take the usual precautions.

"If you're sick, or your kid is sick, stay at home," he says. "That's the worst thing. People come into work and they cough and they spread it. Wash your hands very often, wipe down surfaces that could be used communally by people like phones and things with those antiseptic wipes, as long as they're safe for the device. And if you're going to cough or sneeze, do it into the angle of your elbow, rather than into your hands, and always wash, wash, wash your hands."