H1N1 flu returns, targets younger people

Supplies of influenza vaccine are still available to B.C. residents, despite high demand

B.C. health ministry purchased a record 1.4 million doses of influenza vaccine for this season

Supplies of influenza vaccine are still available to B.C. residents, despite high demand as the H1N1 strain of the virus has returned, provincial health officials say.

Cases since the current flu season began in December have shown a shift towards people aged 20 to 69, rather than the very young and the elderly who are typically most vulnerable. There have been severe cases involving healthy, younger people and two deaths have been confirmed, one in the Okanagan and one on Vancouver Island.

The main strain of influenza to emerge this winter is a descendent of the H1N1 that prompted the largest vaccination in Canadian history in 2009-10, when the illness was declared a global pandemic.

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall said the B.C. health ministry purchased a record 1.4 million doses of the current vaccine, which offers immunity to H1N1 and other strains. Some doctors’ offices and pharmacies have run out as demand has been higher than last year.

“We have supplies currently available, but it’s conceivable that if demand continues to be high, we’ll use up all of those 1.4 million doses,” Kendall said Wednesday. “So I wouldn’t call it a vaccine shortage, I’d call it an unusually high demand.”

The health ministry has a website for information on influenza and other vaccinations, with a guide to finding local flu clinics, here.

Since 2009, pharmacies as well as doctors’ offices and dedicated flu clinics have been authorized to administer flu shots. They are free of charge to higher risk groups, including pregnant women, very young or old people, people with other medical conditions and those planning to visit a hospital or long-term care facility.

Flu season typically runs from December to April. Kendall said in an average year, between 10 and 20 per cent of B.C. residents contract the virus, with about 2,000 sick enough to be hospitalized and 500 deaths, mostly people with underlying conditions.

While severe illness among younger, healthier people is unusual, so far the current flu season is in the typical range, Kendall said.

Seasonal influenza is mainly a respiratory illness, with symptoms of coughing, fever, headache and muscle ache that typically last from seven to 10 days. It can be complicated by pneumonia and worsen underlying conditions such as heart disease.

Kendall said confirmation of North America’s first case of H5N1 “bird flu” is not a cause for public concern, because that strain is typically caught from poultry and rarely transmitted from person to person. A traveller returning from China to Edmonton via Vancouver during the Christmas season became ill and died Jan. 3.


Just Posted

Experts detect risk of rock avalanche above Bridal Falls near Chilliwack

Risk in the one-in-10,000-year is minimal but triggers FVRD to direct growth elsewhere

Auditors couldn’t tell if Fraser Health executives bought booze on taxpayers’ dime

Review from 2014 says one administrator bought Bose headphones on company credit card

VIDEO: Olympic medalist teaches swimming in Hope

Brent Hayden fondly remembers local swim meet from his youth

Free parking not in the cards for Fraser Valley hospitals

Chair says board may look at ways to make parking easier, but not free

VIDEO: LEGO fundraiser builds playground purse

Inspired families built LEGO creations, helped Silver Creek build playground

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Golden Knights win 4-1, remain undefeated against Canucks

Vegas gets points from 12 players in dominating effort versus Vancouver

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Langley City hits up province for share of pot revenue

The province says it understands municipalities will face extra costs when marijuana is legalized.

B.C. climber remembered for gentle spirit, love of mountains

Marc-André Leclerc had been hearing the call of the mountains since childhood

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals on the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

B.C. bravery, public service honoured by Governor General Julie Payette

UVic basketball coach Kathryn Shields inducted into Order of Canada

Most Read