Risks of flu (influenza)

Learn about the risks of flu and who is most at risk.

What are the risks of getting the flu?

Anyone can get the flu if they are exposed to the virus.


In Canada, your risk of getting the flu is higher in the late fall and winter months. The risk is lower during the rest of the year.

The flu is ranked among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada.

Each year in Canada, it is estimated that the flu causes:

  • 12,200 hospital stays
  • 3,500 deaths


Every year, worldwide outbreaks cause an estimated:

  • 1 billion cases of flu
  • 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness
  • about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths

The flu usually occurs in:

  • the northern hemisphere between November and April
  • the southern hemisphere between April and October 
  • tropical countries during the entire year

The following activities may increase your chance of getting the flu:

  • crowded conditions or attending large group events or gatherings
  • travelling on cruise ships or joining large commercial tours

Who is most at risk?

Some people are more likely to get flu-related complications (like pneumonia) or be hospitalized because of complications. These include:

  • people with health conditions, such as:
    • cancer
    • diabetes
    • heart disease
    • lung disease
    • obesity
  • people 65 years and older
  • people who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
  • children under 5 years of age
  • pregnant women
  • Indigenous peoples

Some people are more likely to spread the flu to those at high risk of complications. They include:

  • those who are in close contact with the listed higher risk groups, such as:
    • family
    • household members
    • caregivers
  • those who care for or are expecting a newborn baby during flu season
  • health care workers
  • child care workers
  • those who provide services to people at high risk in closed settings, such as crew on a ship
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