Comox Valley Record

No influenza outbreaks in Comox Valley but it's 'definitely' here

Although the Comox Valley has not seen an outbreak of influenza yet this year, the number of outbreaks in the province so far has already almost reached the total for last year.

"For the whole influenza season last year the province had a total of 27 outbreaks in long-term care facilities," North Island medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns said Wednesday. "And to date, we've already had 24 in British Columbia — and we're just really getting into our influenza season."

According to Enns, there has been a spike of influenza activity in the province which started around the holidays. She added there have not been any outbreaks of influenza in the Comox Valley but, "We definitely have influenza here."

St. Joseph's General Hospital's director for quality and risk management Leesa Ferguson confirmed the hospital has seen an increase in patients coming into its emergency department with influenza symptoms, and about eight cases of influenza have been confirmed in this past month.

However, she added no patients have been admitted to the hospital due to influenza and no inpatients have had influenza. She also said the hospital hasn't had any cases of norovirus.

Flu season typically extends from November through April, and young children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses are among the most at-risk for serious disease and death due to the virus.

The best defence against the virus is the flu shot, according to Enns, who added the shot won't protect against the common cold or other wintertime sickness — the flu shot only vaccinates people against a few strains of the influenza virus deemed to be predominant during that flu season.

Influenza A/H3N2 is one of the strains this year's vaccine protects against, and Enns said that's a very good thing.

Influenza A/H3N2 "absolutely is predominating, so by far the majority of influenzas are A/H3N2 and that is a strain of influenza that makes people sicker," said Enns. "The good news is we have a very good match in the vaccine this year to what's causing people to be sick."

Other strategies for protection are washing your hands, staying home when sick and covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, preferably with your upper arm.

Influenza symptoms can include: fever, headache, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, extreme tiredness and cough, according to the Vancouver Island Health Authority's website. Children could also experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

For more information, including flu shot clinic schedules and locations, visit www.viha.ca/flu/public.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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