Vancouver Coastal Health is strongly encouraging at risk individuals to get vaccinated, as the H1N1 flu — one of the three strains covered by this year’s vaccine — has returned to B.C.
H1N1, also called swine flu, caused a global pandemic in 2009-2010, and was a factor in the deaths of over 17,000 people around the world that year alone. The virus has been included in every vaccine since then, and cases were on the decline until this year.
Children and people with chronic health conditions are especially vulnerable. VCH provides free vaccinations to children from six months to five years, seniors 65 and older, First Nations and individuals with chronic health conditions. The full list is available at www.vch.ca.
Dr. Paul Martiquet, the medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, didn’t have detailed information for Whistler, but confirmed that there were confirmed cases in the health district and Sea to Sky. As well, he expects flu numbers to worsen in late January and earl February.
“What we’re seeing now is increasing activity,” he said. “It’s still early in the flu season and there’s a low level of activity, but we’re seeing it increase as expected and it will increase towards the end of January. That’s why it’s not too late to get a flu shot.”
Last Thursday (Jan.2) it was confirmed that H1N1 was a factor in five deaths in Alberta, and in 920 of 965 lab-confirmed cases of influenza.
Dr. Martiquet said that about 80 per cent of the positive influenza tests in the corridor reveal H1N1, with another virus, H3N2, accounting for most of the other 20 per cent. It’s also covered by this year’s vaccination program.
Martiquet said that so far about 7,000 people in Sea to Sky have received flu shots, but there is still a large quantity remaining. You can get shots at local doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
The flue typically hits people in their 30s, 40s and 50s hardest, as seniors have built-in immunities and most children and seniors have already received a recent vaccine.