Flu cases rise as vaccine supply falls

The supply of the seasonal flu vaccine continues to run low in the province while at the same time levels of flu activity will likely remain the same for the next few weeks.

The Provincial Health Officer revealed Thursday there is a likelihood BC will experience temporary gaps in the supply and availability of the flu vaccine.

Similar challenges are being experienced in other regions of the province as well.

According to the health officer 5,000 more doses are expected to arrive next week and a further 3,000 doses coming the week of Jan 28.

The province has also requested an additional13,000 doses.

These are on top of the 1.401 million doses ordered prior to the start of the flu season.

Interior Health Medical Officer, Dr. Andrew Larder, says the flu numbers have been trending upward since the latter portion of December.

Whether we have seen the peak is hard to tell.

"It's not clear if we have reached the peak yet but we are probably close to the peak," says Dr. Larder.

"We will stay at these levels for at least two or three more weeks before we start to see it begin to tail off to normal summer levels."

Dr. Larder says surveillance reports issued by the BCCDC (BC Centre for Disease Control) show this flu season is on par with activity over the past decade.

The difference this year is the people that are being affected.

"The thing that is different and the thing that I think has caught people's attention is the virus circulation is predominately the H1N1. This is really the first year since the pandemic year (2009) that has been the case," he says.

He says the H1N1 virus is affecting people in their 20's to 60's.

"It's because that's the population that probably has the lowest levels of resistance to it. They may have been immunized in the pandemic year but a lot of those people probably haven't been immunized since and the protection wanes," he says.

"That isn't the typical group we see cases in and I think that's why it's attracted so much attention and caused concern."

Dr. Larder says that they are the population group that does not have the inherent immunity where as older people and younger kids are part of the ongoing immunization target group each year.

"They have likely had immunizations with the vaccine that contains this virus. It's been in the seasonal flu vaccine since 2009."

The province is continually keeping tabs on serious flu related illness across the province.

As of last Thursday 40 people across the province were in ICU with what is being described as an indicator of severe influenza cases. Nine of those cases were within the Interior Health jurisdiction with at least one at Kelowna General Hospital.

One person, a woman in her 50's from the Okanagan, has died from the H1N1 virus while three other people are suspected to have died from the flu.

Click here for information of the flu and flu symptoms.



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