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Severe H1N1 flu cases in Fraser Health prompt new call to immunize

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It's not too late to get the flu shot, say health officials, after a spike in severely ill patients with influenza in local hospitals.
— image credit: File

Fraser Health is urging residents to get the flu shot if they haven't yet had it after a surge in severe cases of H1N1 influenza.

As of Monday, 30 patients sick with suspected H1N1 had been treated in hospital intensive care units with artificial respiration, although some have since been discharged.

One patient has died but the case has not yet been confirmed as H1N1 flu.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder said the cases here are mirroring the pattern seen recently with outbreaks in Alberta, Ontario and Texas.

Ill patients here are not the very elderly, but adults of various ages from 20 to 60, he said. Two are pregnant women and others suffer from chronic illness or are very overweight.

"We're surprised at how many have come in such a short period of time with such severe disease," Van Buynder said.

Hospitalized patients are at Royal Columbian, Surrey Memorial and Abbotsford Regional hospitals, Van Buynder said, but added that's just because the most seriously ill patients concentrate in the region's three big hospitals.

The virus isn't limited to any particular community.

"This is right across Fraser," he said.

Van Buynder said all patients currently hospitalized with the flu are expected to survive, but he said the outbreak is disturbing.

"We are urging those who have not already had their flu shot to get one. It is not too late."

Anyone who got the 2013 flu shot is immunized against the now-circulating strain of H1N1, he said.

People who got the H1N1 flu shot in 2009 – when there was widespread concern about an outbreak of that strain – may have some immunity but are urged to get a new shot.

"We're not sure whether this virus has moved a little bit," Van Buynder said.

"We recommend people get the current vaccine rather than relying on the previous one."

B.C.'s Influenza Control Policy came into effect Dec. 2.

In addition to health care workers, anyone visiting someone in a health-care facility will be expected to have been vaccinated or wear a mask to help protect those most vulnerable this influenza season.

For more information about influenza and vaccination clinics, see immunizebc.ca

 

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