While other parts of the province are experiencing high volumes of influenza cases, the Northern Health region is having a mild flu season.
“Last year at this time there were lines of residents waiting for their flu shots,” Dr. William Osei, Northern Health medical health officer, said.
So far this season there have been 21 confirmed cases of influenza in the Northern Health, compared to 47 in the same time period of last year. Dr. Osei said in the Northwest area of the region, which includes Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, there has only been two confirmed cases, neither in Prince Rupert. There have been 10 cases in the Northeast and nine in the Northern Interior.
But Dr. Osei said it’s hard to determine the true number of influenza cases as many who are infected stay home and treat themselves.
The flu season usually peaks in early-January, with the second peak occurring four weeks later.
While the H1N1 influenza strain was the most common last season, this year there have been more cases of H3N2 around B.C. Symptoms of both strains are the same, but Dr. Osei said H1N1 is more infectious.
The H3N2 virus mutated after the most recent vaccine was created, so it doesn’t offer full protection against the strain.
“We didn’t hit all [three components in the vaccination] that we intended to hit,” Dr. Osei explained.
“Fortunately for us we haven’t had the type of widespread transmission that the Lower Mainland and other provinces are seeing,” he said, noting the flu hasn’t been an issue in northern long-term care facilities.
Jonathon Dyck, Northern Health spokesperson, said the authority has a sufficient supply of flu vaccines across the region.
“If there is a community that is seeing a shortage of the flu vaccine or higher demand than another community, what we do is we move the vaccine around community to community to make sure people who would like a flu shot are able to access it,” Dyck said.
The number of people who were vaccinated by public health alone within the region was 16,453 as of Jan. 3.
Dr. Osei said the best way people can protect themselves against influenza is to get immunized and regularly wash their hands.
To book an immunization appointment through Northern Health in Prince Rupert, call 250-622-6380. Immunizations are also available at a number of pharmacy’s in the community.