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Respiratory Illnesses: COVID-19 & Influenza

COVID-19 & Influenza

Respiratory illnesses are more common during flu season (September 1 to April 30). The PHU shares local data on flu and COVID-19 on the PHU website during this time. Find PHU data in the Ontario Respiratory Virus Tool all year. Public Health Ontario updates this tool every Friday, PHO's Ontario Respiratory Virus Tool.

Vaccine Clinics

The vaccines are safe and effective and the best protection available against flu and COVID-19.

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Assessing Personal Risk. What is best for you?

When deciding which layers of protection to use, consider the following:

  • Personal Health: Are you or someone you live with at higher risk for severe illness?
  • Community Levels: What is the current level of respiratory virus activity in your area?
  • Vaccination Status: Are you up to date with your vaccinations?
  • Planned Activities: Are you attending a gathering or an event with many people?
  • Workplace Exposure: Do you work in a setting where the risk of transmitting respiratory viruses is high?
  • Caring for Vulnerable Individuals: Are you taking care of someone who is at a greater risk of serious illness from respiratory viruses?

Your choice of protection may change based on these considerations. For example, if you’re at higher risk, you might choose to wear a mask even when others are not. 

Making Informed Decisions:

Once you’ve assessed your personal risk, you're ready to decide on the right layers of protection. Finding the right balance between safety and comfort is key. Consider what works best for you in keeping both you and your community healthy.

  • Personal Comfort: Choose the layers that make you feel safe and are feasible for you to maintain.
  • Community Responsibility: Remember that protecting yourself also helps protect others, especially the most vulnerable.
  • Flexibility: Be prepared to adjust your layers of protection. 

Layers of Protection:

Just like dressing in layers can help you adjust to changing temperatures, using multiple layers of protection can help protect you from respiratory viruses:

Vaccination: Your First Layer of Defense

The annual flu vaccine and the updated fall COVID-19 vaccine are the first defense against respiratory illnesses.    

Respiratory Etiquette: An Essential Layer

Regular and proper handwashing can greatly reduce the spread of germs.  

When you are out and about, carry hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently.  

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing.

Masks: An additional layer when needed

Masks are a simple and powerful tool to help protect everyone from respiratory illnesses. When you wear a mask, you’re looking out for your health and the health of people around you.

A mask should be worn:

  • When visiting certain facilities where they are required (i.e., long term care homes, retirement homes).
  • If you’ve had symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test, keep wearing a mask in public places for 10 days after the first sign of being sick or the positive test.

Consider wearing a mask in busy indoor spaces, especially if you or someone close to you is more likely to get really sick from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.  

Ventilation: Keeping the Air Fresh.

Increase ventilation in indoor settings by opening windows or using air purifiers.

Staying Home When Sick: A Critical Layer  

If you’re feeling sick, the best thing to do is stay home. This not only gives you the chance to recover but also prevents the spread of illness to others.


Each protective measure you take plays an important role. Stay updated and choose your layers of protection with care!