1,000 Interior Health emergency room visits for flu in November: health minister | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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1,000 Interior Health emergency room visits for flu in November: health minister

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

Flu season has hit B.C. harder and earlier this year, including the Interior Health region.

For the Interior Health region, emergency room visits for flu rose to about 1,000 per day in November versus about 300 during the same month last year, Health Minister Adrian Dix said during a news briefing today, Dec. 5.

“It’s earlier than we’ve normally seen it,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at the same news conference. “It’s mainly Influenza A – H3N2 – that’s causing illness that we’ve seen around the province. And we know, from previous experience with influenza, that H3N2 does tend to cause more severe illness across the board but, particularly, in young children and in older people.”

Children aged six months to five years are most at risk not only of getting severe flu but of getting bacterial infections that can lead to things like serious pneumonia, she added.

The main defence for young children is to get flu vaccines but only about 21% have been vaccinated so far.

During COVID, when travel restrictions limited the spread of influenza, cases were very low and, consequently, so were vaccination levels.

Prior to COVID vaccination rates in young children were not tracked like they are today but estimates were that upwards to 30% of young children were vaccinated.

The actual rate this year is likely higher than 21% because vaccinations given by physicians are not included, Dr. Henry said.

For children aged five to 11 the vaccination rate is about 20% while teenagers are at 15%. About 55% of seniors over the age of 65 have been vaccinated.

Expanded clinics will operate this weekend and people are encouraged to register their children with Get Vaccinated B.C. so they can be sent invitations to get vaccines.

There are about 150,000 children under the age of five who are not registered so notices will start going out today to let their parents know about the availability of vaccination times.

COVID rates are holding steady and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) rates have dropped off from what they were earlier in the fall.

The flu season normally runs from six to eight weeks. B.C. is about two weeks into that cycle.

Normally it peaks in January when people are less likely to be gathering, Dr. Henry said.

Now, it’s hitting as people as they’re heading into the first Christmas season in three years where they will be travelling and mingling without COVID restrictions so it’s particularly important to get vaccinated in advance, she said.

“I think it’s really important to remember what we’ve been through in the last couple of years and make it OK in your holiday plans not to come or to be able to participate remotely or outside if someone in the family is not feeling well – even if they’re the ones that were supposed to bring the turkey,” Dr. Henry said.

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