Flu vaccine season continues

Influenza outbreaks in Eastern Canada have prompted the province to once again urge British Columbians to get flu vaccines if they have not already done so this winter.

“There have been significant reports out of Eastern Canada of active influenza outbreaks requiring hospitalization,” said Dr. Paul Hasselback, medical health officer with the Interior Health Authority.

“We’re trying to remind people influenza season isn’t over.”

Influenza season normally runs from November to April.

For those who are at highest risks, antiviral medications are available in addition to the vaccines for those who develop influenza.

“Those at high risk may be aided in their recover from influenza by antiviral medication,” said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a physician epidemiologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Hasselback said this year’s influenza season features three strains.

The H1N1 strain has surfaced sporadically in British Columbia and elsewhere, as has the B strain.

The H3N2 strain has shown itself in outbreaks in Eastern Canada and Hasselback said it is the one health officials are watching.

To date, there have been no outbreaks of H3N2 in the province, “but it is what we’re most concerned about,” he said.

“Influenza is not a disease to be taken lightly by anyone or at any time.”

Influenza is characterized by fever, aching muscles and coughing or respiratory symptoms.

The disease many refer to as “stomach flu” is norovirus, which has been occurring frequently this winter, Hasselback said.