A particularly nasty flu bug is suspected in claiming 21 lives in care facilities so far this season.
Between the beginning of the season and Jan. 3, residential care facilities in the Interior Health Authority region have reported 21 deaths that may be related to influenza activity.
This compares to zero possibly flu-related deaths in care facilities over the same time period in 2015/16, and seven in 2014/15.
“This season, an H3N2 kind of influenza virus is circulating which is especially hard on the elderly,” said Pamela de Bruin, manager of communicable diseases and immunization programs.
“We expect to see more care facility outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths overall during seasons when H3N2 is the dominant kind of influenza virus.”
Ten of the deaths were in the Okanagan, while the remaining 11 were in the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap.
“It’s important to understand that our surveillance system attributes these deaths to influenza because they occurred at a residential care facility where influenza activity was present, and is a likely cause of or contributor to death,” said de Bruin, adding that the numbers are not reported in real time (they are updated as information is received, and so there could be a delay between a death and when it is reported to the health authority).
“Please note that this information is not indicative of what is happening in the community, as the data is specific to residential care facilities.”
But it is that time of year where sniffles, sneezes, and other ailments seem to be lurking around every corner.
In most healthy people, influenza symptoms such as headache, fever, coughing and sneezing and sore throat can last five to seven days. These symptoms are best treated at home by resting, drinking lots of fluids, and taking medicine to lower a fever.
Anyone suffering from influenza symptoms should minimize contact with others by staying home from work, school and holiday gatherings to reduce the risk of spreading infection to others. It’s also important to remember general prevention measures such as frequent and proper hand washing, covering noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and properly disposing of tissues.
Influenza can be particularly severe for some people such as older adults, people with chronic health conditions, and babies. If your symptoms are getting worse or you are not recovering, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for medical advice. This free service will connect you with a health-care professional who can provide advice about how to manage your health concerns or those of your loved ones. Alternatively, you may choose to call or visit your doctor or go to a walk-in clinic.
If your symptoms become severe, go to the emergency department of the nearest health-care facility right away. For example, go to hospital if you have:
• problems breathing;
• pain in your chest; or
• a high fever that does not get better after three to four days.