Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall gets his annual flu shot. Influenza vaccines are still available. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Hospitals, care homes struggle with influenza

Call your doctor or 8-1-1 for nurse advice before going to emergency

B.C. health care facilities are struggling with peak influenza season, with outbreaks at residential care homes across the province and an influx of emergency room visits from people battling cough, fever and fatigue.

Public health officials urge people suffering from the flu to avoid spreading the viral infection if possible, and if they need medical treatment to visit doctors’ offices or walk-in clinics.

Visitors are also being urged to stay away from residential care facilities if they have respiratory symptoms, or the diarrhea and nausea associated with Norovirus or similar gastro-intestinal infections.

Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said most people with influenza should contact their doctors or call the B.C. HealthLink line at 8-1-1 for advice before they head for the hospital.

“Trying to avoid the emergency rooms is good because you don’t really want to spread influenza among vulnerable people or health care workers if you can avoid it,” Kendall said.

Anti-viral drugs can be prescribed for people with underlying heart or respiratory illnesses, and they should arrange that in advance, even if they’ve had the seasonal flu shot, Kendall said.

Most healthy people will recover at home with rest and drinking plenty of fluids.

While hospitals and residential care facilities are coping with dozens of outbreaks, this year’s flu season is not as severe as B.C. experienced in the past two winters.

This season started early with a mix of influenza A and B strains, with influenza B more prevalent now.

“The good news of this is the influenza B protection in the vaccine is pretty good this year,” Kendall said. “It’s effective 60 to 70 per cent.”

Influenza A tends to affect older people more severely, and its incidence is down this year compared to the severe infection levels seen last year.

As of Wednesday, Fraser Health listed influenza outbreaks at more than 30 health facilities, including Delta and Langley Memorial Hospitals.

Island Health listed six outbreaks as of Wednesday, including at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Interior Health has 11 outbreaks on its list, including residential care homes in Kelowna, Penticton, Williams Lake, Kaslo and Kamloops.

Influenza vaccines are still available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies. The B.C. government maintains a list of available flu shot clinics at www.immunizebc.ca.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

UPDATE: Fuel truck hits train in Port Coquitlam, causing massive fire

CP Rail reporting no injuries, driver of truck is safe.

Truck crashes through Highway 1 restaurant window

No injuries in crash that happened just after lunch rush

UPDATE: Brother of teen killed by stray bullet in Vancouver says the death left a void

Alfred Wong, 15, was gunned down while on his way home from dinner with his family

UPDATE: Coquihalla northbound lane re-opened

Highway 5 is closed in one direction.

Testing the Google Arts & Culture app

Going face to face with art

Man faces 48 charges in string of random Toronto shootings

The string of unprovoked shootings began Jan.9, say police

‘Shape of Water’ producer, Christopher Plummer among Canadian Oscar nominees

Guillermo del Toro film about merman romance earns 13 nominations

5 to start your day

Tsunami warning activated in B.C. overnight, fuel truck hits train in Port Coquitlam and more

Canada, TPP agrees to revised deal without the United States

Canada and the remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed to a revised trade agreement

Tsunami warnings 101: Canada

Here are some things to know about tsunami alerts in Canada and how they work

Rogers Media cuts ties with Vice Canada

Rogers Media and Vice Canada are ending their three-year-old partnership, pulling Viceland TV channel off the air

Snowfall warnings for mountain passes

Lots of snow expected to fall today.

Most Read