Respiratory illness (COVID, Flu, RSV)

Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from respiratory viruses like the flu, RSV or COVID-19. Below you will find information on infection prevention, symptoms, vaccination and treatment. Check out our Respiratory Illness Activity Dashboard to see the latest data about COVID-19, flu and RSV in our community.

Common symptoms of respiratory illnesses

Fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, muscle aches, fatigue, vomiting/diarrhea, abdominal pain.

What to do if you have symptoms

Take the online Self-assessment for yourself or on behalf of someone else. At the end of the Self-assessment, you will find instructions based on your answers. In general:

  • Stay home until you do not have a fever and your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours (48 hours for nausea/vomiting/diarrhea).
  • Talk to your doctor or primary care provider if needed.
  • In public wear a tight-fitting, well-constructed mask around others for 10 days from when symptoms started.
  • Avoid non-essential visits to people at high risk of severe illness (seniors, long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospital)

How respiratory viruses spread

  • Through the air when a person coughs or sneezes.
  • Direct contact such as kissing an infected person.
  • Indirect contact like touching a surface or another person that has droplets on it/them, then touching your face with unwashed hands.

Testing and treatment

Symptoms of respiratory illnesses can generally be treated at home with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medication to stay comfortable. Anti-viral treatments for COVID-19 are available for eligible high risk individuals who have tested positive and have symptoms. To test for COVID-19, use a rapid antigen test, available for free from Public Health offices or a PCR test if eligible.


Vaccination to protect against the flu and COVID-19 remains the best way to prevent severe illness. An annual COVID-19 and flu vaccine is recommended for those 6 months an older. Individuals at higher risk may benefit from additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and should speak with their healthcare provider. More information about Fall 2024 flu and COVID-19 vaccines will be available in October.

Arexvy, an RSV vaccine, was authorized for use in Canada in 2023 for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in adults 60 years of age and older. Recommendations, including eligibility, for the 2024-2025 season will be made closer to Fall 2024.

How to prevent the spread of respiratory illness

During respiratory illness season, we all need to do our part to protect ourselves and others from getting sick. This means revisiting infection prevention measures that we know can help keep ourselves and those around us healthy. You can use multiple layers of protection to stay healthy such as:

  • Get your annual flu and COVID-19 vaccines
  • Wear a tight-fitting, well-constructed mask when sick or if you have been exposed to illness.
  • Consider your risk for when to wear a mask in indoor public settings that are crowded, confined or with poor ventilation.
  • When getting together with others, gather outdoors if possible or in well-ventilated indoor spaces (i.e., open windows, HEPA filters, etc.)
  • Monitor daily for signs of illness.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Use rapid tests if you have symptoms. Free rapid tests are available for pickup at Public Health offices.
  • Get a PCR test and/or antiviral treatments if eligible
  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands often and using hand sanitizer
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, by using a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Regularly clean high touch surfaces.