It’s still early but flu season is in full swing throughout the Interior Health Authority.
Medical health officer Dr. Karin Goodison said the health authority is seeing a rapid increase in the number of confirmed influenza cases and outbreaks throughout its service area, although she described the season so far as “typical."
“We’re seeing both A and B this year in the early part of the season which is a little bit different than what we typically see,” Goodison said. “We usually see A early in the season and B coming later but they may be happening together so it’s a bit of a double whammy on that front.”
Goodison couldn’t give numbers but said there has already been deaths related to this year’s influenza season, with this years’s strain of H3N2 particularly hard on the elderly who are already vulnerable.
“That’s the one we worry about the most because it causes people to be the sickest,” she added.
The health authority monitors the range and intensity of influenza in the general population through nasal swab tests administered to those thought to have the virus who show up at doctor’s offices and emergency rooms, Goodison said.
“We also look at hospital deaths, we look at hospital admissions where they need intensive care,” Goodison added, with special attention paid to long-term care facilities.
“That’s where there are a lot of vulnerable elderly people so we take specific actions in those settings to protect others,” Goodison added.
The health authority ordered 240,000 doses of vaccine for the 2017-2018 flu season but Goodison said it would be several weeks still until the B.C. Centre for Disease Control announces whether they are a good match for the predominant influenza strain.
The health authority says this year’s vaccine offers protection from three viruses including A/Michigan/45, A/Hong Kong /4801 and B/Brisbane/60.
In the meantime, Goodison is advising everyone to get a flu shot.
“It’s not to late to get immunization,” she said. “If you are sick, stay home. Hand washing is very important because coughing on our hands is the most common way of spreading influenza. We touch something that someone else has touched and then touch our faces. We touch our faces all the time.”
Find out more about influenza and where to get immunization within the Interior Health Authority.
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