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This year's flu vaccine to target relatively vicious strain

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October 16, 2015 - 9:00 PM

KELOWNA – If you feel like this fall has already been worse than others for getting a cold or the flu, Interior Health has some bad news for you.

It won’t peak for another month.

According to Interior Health medical officer Kamran Golmohammadi the influenza virus and all the other viruses that cause flu-like symptoms won’t reach maximum threat until late November or December.

“It is only the start of the flu season,” he says. “Usually every year we see the peak in late fall or early spring.”

Last year’s flu vaccine wasn’t particularly effective, but Golmohammadi says this year’s vaccine cocktail will target the more severe of the two viruses – Type A.

“The initial indications suggest that Type A is a match with the vaccine type that is prepared for this year,” he says. “There have been no observations of Type B but it is very difficult to say it is not there. Type A is a bit more severe.”

Every year roughly 1,000 people are hospitalized with the influenza virus in B.C. Samples from those patients are taken and analyzed and the results are used to determine what viruses are making the rounds. What makes the job of matching vaccines to viruses so difficult is that they change quickly and there are numerous subtypes within each.

“It is too early to determine what will be the burden of disease for this year. We have observed some outbreaks in lower mainland that involves older adults in long term care facilities," Golmohammadi says.

Based on outbreaks so far this year, the vaccine will be made up of three or four viruses identified by disease prevention researchers. But Golmohammadi is quick to remind that taking the vaccine isn’t a guarantee you won’t get sick. 

“Last year, when we look at the data, there was not a good match between the composition of the vaccine and the viruses circulating,” he says. “Our initial observations for this year suggest we have a match.”

Golmohammadi says even though the vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick — there are also bacterial infections and a host of other, less severe viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms — it is still a wise step to take as it helps prevent outbreaks that could threaten the lives of the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions. The vaccines will be delivered to pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices and travel clinics over the next two weeks.

“The more people that are protected the less people will be infected,” he says.

The only defence other than vaccines, Golmohammadi says, is to wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, and if you get sick, stay home until symptoms stop.

Set out tissue boxes, trash bins and hand sanitizer around your home or work to make it easier for those around you to stop the spread of germs and see your doctor if you suspect you have the flu. Antiviral medications may reduce the effects of the flu in people at a high risk of complications, such as young children, seniors, pregnant women, those with respiratory problems or who have other underlying conditions.

To find a flu clinic closest to you, call 8-1-1 or visit ImmunizeBC's Influenza Clinic Locator.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at aproskiw@infonews.ca or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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