It is not too late to be vaccinated against the seasonal flu, according to Dr. Paul Martiquet, chief medical officer for rural Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).
While communities across Canada currently face the full brunt of flu season, the situation in the Powell River area is slightly different, said Martiquet.
He thinks flu activity in the area will peak near the end of January and into February. “We’re expecting the worst to come,” he said.
In the Lower Mainland at least 20 people, many in their 30s, have been hospitalized due to flu, some requiring intensive care. Doctors are expecting more in the coming weeks.
Martiquet said that despite a successful flu shot campaign in Powell River for the elderly, children and people who work in higher risk environments for contracting seasonal flu, it is possible that the coast could face an outbreak similar to what has happened in Alberta. Close to a thousand confirmed cases of the flu have been reported with more than 250 people in hospital. Five deaths due to flu, two in Calgary and three in Edmonton, were reported Friday, January 3.
Health officials are concerned about this year’s seasonal flu, the H1N1 strain, because it puts younger age groups at slightly more risk, said Martiquet.
“The majority of the at-risk groups [in Powell River] were vaccinated, but there is concern because it is H1N1,” he added. “We are advising people that the vaccine is in good supply in Powell River. It’s not too late and it’s in your best interest.”
The 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, prompted many Canadians to receive vaccinations, but due to mutations in the virus, doctors are pushing to have people take the most current vaccine.
People interested in the flu shot can be vaccinated by their family doctor, pharmacies and through the community health office at Powell River General Hospital. Nasal flu mist for younger age groups is available for those phobic of injections.
Martiquet is advising people living in Powell River to take extra precautions to protect themselves from its spread and to maintain good cough and nose etiquette. He said that taking simple steps like regular hand washing can help to prevent transmission. He also advises people that if they do feel like they are coming down with the flu to make an appointment to see a doctor and be aware not to spread the virus further by visiting people in the hospital or an extended care facility.