Influenza outbreak in B.C. approaching 10-year high

METRO VANCOUVER — A sharp increase in flu cases throughout the province could prove this to be B.C.’s worst season in close to a decade.

According to the most recent statistics provided by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (Dec. 14-27), there were 28 new influenza outbreaks across the province, including 25 in long-term care facilities and three in acute care.

That number is roughly double compared to the same year-to-date period for the 2012-13 flu season, which was also blamed on a vaccine mismatch.

Statistics indicate the flu represented 27 per cent of visits to the BC Children’s Hospital Emergency Room in the last week of December, while the proportion of patients testing positive for influenza at the BC provincial laboratory increased to 45 per cent in the final week.

Dr. Michelle Murti, medical health officer for Fraser Health for the Delta, White Rock and South Surrey municipalities and regional medical health officer for immunizations and communicable diseases, said the elderly have been hardest hit this season.

There are currently 14 active influenza outbreaks within Fraser Health facilities, exceeding the 10 outbreaks the authority experienced for the entire winter season last year.

"We’ve already had 11 that have been resolved from the beginning of October so we’re at 25 facilities that have had an outbreak and we’re only at the beginning of January now," she said.

Murti said physicians are seeing outbreaks of the H3N2 influenza virus both in the community and long-term care facilities, with particularly high rates in residential care homes.

Although Fraser Health enjoyed good participation rates for the flu vaccine this year, Murti said the H3N2 strain has "drifted" a little bit and so is not an exact match for the vaccine. However, she said that has reduced the impact of the illness and made the symptoms milder.

"We think there’s some cross-protection from the vaccine but not enough protection from the flu altogether and we are seeing more of these outbreaks happening."

Fraser Health has been monitoring and tracking flu levels based on visits to physicians, emergency rooms and laboratory results, with positive levels approaching a 10-year high.

Murti said there hasn’t been this number of outbreaks within long-term care facilities since 2007.

The H3N2 strain has been a common strain since the 1970s and as such is a fairly predictable part of the influenza cycle, explained Murti. She said the H1N1 or "swine flu" pandemic that gripped the world in 2009 was a "novel" strain because many people had not been exposed to it on an annual basis.

Ironically, the H1N1 virus had been experienced by many older people in their youth, offering them more cross-protection than children, who were harder hit.

To handle the outbreaks Fraser Health is still advocating regular preventative care such as getting immunized, washing hands and cleaning contaminated surfaces.

Murti said it’s about staying away from people who are ill, but also staying home if you’re exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

"This is a time when kids are going back to school, people are back from holidays, people want to go back. They might think they have to go back even when they are still ill and they don’t want to take any sick time.

"But it is important that if you do have respiratory symptoms that if you are still actively coughing and unwell that it is important to stay home so you’re not spreading that virus to other people."

amacnair@thenownewspaper.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

OUR VIEW: Way too many Surrey COVID-19 cases

We all need to take this threat seriously

Horgan says Surrey mayor opened ‘hornets’ nest’ with Surrey policing transition

Surrey election battle heating up over Doug McCallum’s controversial cop transition

Semiahmoo Bottle Depot part of hybrid-electic compaction truck pilot program

Return-It launches program at 16 B.C. bottle depots with aim to reduce emissions

Horgan lambastes Liberal health record in Surrey

BCNDP leader attacks Andrew Wilkinson’s role in selling a potential hospital site here at a discount

OPINION: It’s Time for Surrey to be Heard

Which party will listen to Surrey voters?

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Return-It depots change beverage container deposits from 20 to 10 cents

Change will be implemented on Oct. 1, with a transition period being held until Oct. 11

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Young man assaulted, left for 12 hours until help called in Vancouver’s Strathcona Park

Vancouver police are looking to identify the victim as they investigate an assault on Monday evening

Boulders near Harrison vandalized with derogatory word

Vandalism likely occured between Sunday evening and Tuesday evening

Most Read