With the coming influenza season potentially being more severe for seniors and those with weaker immune systems than in previous years, health officials are encouraging more people to vaccinate themselves with a flu shot this fall.
Vancouver Coastal Health medical health officer Paul Martiquet said Canada’s flu forecasting is based on what happened in Australia and New Zealand during the recent winter in those countries.
“Based on what we saw, and what we're seeing now in terms of low-level activity in the Lower Mainland, it’s likely that H3N2 will play a role,” said Martiquet.
Health officials are preparing for three virus strains this year, but are particularly concerned about H3N2, which is known to be more severe for older patients and has led to higher rates of hospitalization, said Martiquet.
Flu kills approximately 3,500 people in Canada each year and leads to more than 12,000 hospitalizations. Influenza is an infection of the nose and throat with symptoms such as fever, headache, runny nose, cough and fatigue.
In Powell River, Vancouver Coastal Health continued its ongoing relationship with the local seniors association and offered two public flu-shot clinics in October and November at Cranberry Seniors Centre, said Senior Citizens Association Branch 49 president Anna Maria Coletto.
“It's a good service to have,” said Coletto. “Seniors have been accustomed to going to get their shots, so they just come to our centre now.”
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, the risk of catching the flu or spreading it to others can be reduced by hand-washing, eating well, regular exercise and having the influenza vaccine administered.
Flu season in the region generally hits its peak in December and continues through to the spring. BC Centre for Disease Control is encouraging all BC residents to receive flu shots as early as possible in flu season and by the end of November at the latest.
Martiquet said health officials are encouraging more people to be vaccinated in order to create a “herd immunity” that makes it harder for seniors to become infected.
“This is not just about protecting yourself,” said Martiquet. “It's about protecting those who are most prone to serious consequences from the flu.”