February 05, 2014 - 3:18 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN — There's little risk of contracting H1N1 as the peak of the influenza season passes, but there are still flu shots available for those wanting to ward off the remaining A and B strains still making rounds.
Interior Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Rob Parker notes the number of physician visits for influenza have been dropping over the past two weeks, leading him to believe we're past the peak for H1N1.
“We're not seeing many new ones,” he says of the influenza A strain. “We did have 5 people in ICU as of late last week.”
Three people in the Interior Health region that contracted H1N1 have died this year, two Okanagan women in their 70s earlier in January and most recently a Thompson-Cariboo man in his 30s late last week. Parker says three is not an unusual number of influenza deaths for any given winter.
“In total it's been about an average year,” Parker says. “(But this year) the people ending up in hospital are more likely to be 40 or 50-year-old working class.”
One difference is the number of kids getting H1N1. Parker says many kids have had more exposure to it and as a result it's not spreading much in schools.
Another respiratory illness, coronavirus, has broken out in senior homes across the region and he believes it is also starting to hit some schools. Influenza B and influenza A/H3N2 are both starting to spread a bit as well, but Parker believes the H1N1 strain was the dominant one this year and could attribute to as much as 90 per cent of the influenza cases seen in the province.
The best time to get vaccinated is in November but it is not too late to get one if you feel you could still be at risk. Because of a national and provincial push, Interior Health recently received more flu vaccine though Parker is unsure whether they will all be utilized now that the cases of flu are dropping.
The increase in vaccinations likely helped prevent many cases of influenza this year along with World Health Organization correctly identifying the dominant strain this year.
“I believe more of (eligible working age adults) got immunized.... We likely had less cases than we would've had otherwise,” Parker says. “The good thing is this year they included the one (strain) that caused most of the diseases. We had a correct match.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014