Wednesday August 27, 2014

Influenza cases on the rise

Swine flu reported throughout Interior Health region

The swine flu is back.

Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Sue Pollock said Friday the H1N1 influenza strain has been confirmed throughout IHA and in other parts of B.C.

This is flu season, so numbers of the disease in general are on the rise.

What’s not being seen, so far, is the severity of the H1N1 that’s being experienced in Alberta, Pollock said. Alberta has had five deaths associated with H1N1, while Saskatchewan has had three.

Health officials in this province are watching how the flu is affecting other parts of the country. B.C.’s immunization rate is more than 50 per cent.

“We’re monitoring the situation in Alberta along with our B.C. counterparts,” she said.

Those who haven’t had their flu vaccination yet can still get the shot. Those who fall into high-risk categories — such as children under five, pregnant women, people over 65 or those with chronic health problems — can get the immunization free of charge.

About half the cases of influenza circulating in IHA are estimated to be H1N1. The others are H3N2 or a B-strain. All three types are included in the vaccine.

“H1N1 has been contained in the flu shot every year since 2009,” said Pollock. That gives some protection, but the flu shot does not give life-time immunity.

“We tend to see an increase after the holiday period. We haven’t yet seen our peak.”

That peak won’t happen until late January or sometime in February.

The best defence against influenza — or many other illnesses going around right now — is frequent handwashing.

Pollock recommended that those who are sick should stay home, and cough into a sleeve, not a hand.

Influenza isn’t the only illness going around right now. The Hamlets has been affected by a gastro-intestinal illness since Dec. 27. Pollock didn’t have any details.

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