Central Okanagan  

Deaths not attributable to flu

No one has directly died as a result of this year's strain of influenza within the Interior Health region.

That according to IH Medical Health Officer, Dr. Peter Barss.

"Our staff have not yet been able to confirm for me any unexpected sudden deaths that might have resulted just from influenza," says Dr. Barss.

"Because there are so many people at advanced age with complex health conditions at those units (care facilities) you can't easily say it was just the flu that might have caused the death. So far we don't have information to suggest that."

Dr. Barss says cases of influenza within the Interior Health region is higher this flu season than it's been over the past 10 years but adds that increase is not significant.

"We're at about the 75th percentile if you go back over the last 10 years. That means it's somewhat more than the average but it's not way out of line," says Dr. Barss.

"It seems to be very similar to what we have seen in previous years but the last couple of years there was almost none."

At the present time, Dr. Barss says three care facilities in the Kelowna area currently have active cases of influenza.

Six other facilities have already concluded influenza episodes.

In terms of schools, Dr. Barss says one school reported a respiratory outbreak in early December. There have been no reports since.

As for the community at large, Dr. Barss says it's more difficult to determine how serious an outbreak is because not everyone sees a doctor for treatment.

"You or I may just stay home until we get better and not necessarily see a doctor. People we are concerned about are people who have chronic lung problems like smokers with emphysema, people with asthma or other heart diseases."

Dr. Barss says flu shots appear to be working on the influenza "A" strain.

He says there is still time for people to get a flu shot.

"Since the outbreak is still quite active, people would be advised to call their health unit and make an appointment to get immunized," says Dr. Barss.

He adds over the past few days, staff in the Communicable Disease Unit of Interior Health in Vernon indicated they had about 120 positive results across the Interior Health region. That's out of about 750,000 people.

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