How Canada prepares for Pandemic Flu

Learn about Canada's planning for pandemic flu, including detecting and monitoring, vaccines, and antiviral drugs.

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The systems and processes that Canada has in place during yearly seasonal flu epidemics give us a strong foundation for responding to a flu pandemic. There are also many flu experts across Canada who can be called on to give governments and organizations advice during a flu pandemic.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments have pandemic plans in place, as well as many local municipalities, Indigenous communities, health care facilities, and businesses. These plans have been adjusted based on Canada's experience during the last flu pandemic in 2009.

Detecting and monitoring

Each year, we monitor influenza activity using the surveillance system called FluWatch. All across Canada, we collect information from health care professionals and laboratories, including the National Microbiology Laboratory, on the type of influenza infecting people in Canada.

This will help us to quickly detect if there is unusual activity or a new strain circulating in Canada.

Canada also works along with other countries to watch for and share information about flu viruses world-wide. For information about new flu viruses that are currently being monitored, see Emerging Respiratory Pathogens.


Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent illness and death from pandemic flu. Canada has a contract with a domestic manufacturer to produce enough pandemic flu vaccine for everyone living in Canada if needed. Canada also arranges for another source of pandemic flu vaccine in case it is needed.

A pandemic flu vaccine can only be produced once the pandemic flu virus emerges. The seasonal flu vaccine, which protects people against yearly seasonal flu epidemics, is not expected to protect against pandemic flu.

During a flu pandemic, each province and territory will have a plan for distributing the vaccine to people living in their jurisdiction.

Antiviral drugs

Antiviral drugs can be given to people when they are sick with the flu to:

  • shorten the length of illness
  • reduce flu complications

It is important that antivirals be started as soon as possible once a person gets sick with pandemic flu. Each province and territory holds a stockpile of antiviral drugs which they will distribute in a flu pandemic. A stockpile is a good way to make sure that antiviral drugs are available quickly for people who may need them at the time of a pandemic.

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