Cold and flu season is hitting BC Interior children hard this year

Flu earlier, more severe

After laying dormant for nearly two years, the flu has returned with a vengeance.

According to Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Carol Fenton, the respiratory season is earlier, and the virus more severe than pre-COVID baselines.

This is resulting in many more emergency room visits in both pediatric areas and adult visits.

"These viral infections we are seeing are causing illness and hospitalizations across all age groups," Dr. Fenton told Castanet News.

"But, we do know those that are hardest hit and most likely to get severe illness requiring hospitalization are those who are elderly, very young, and those who have other health conditions that make them more vulnerable."

Data provided by Interior Health indicates the number of pediatric respiratory-related emergency visits was about two-and-a-half times higher than normal in November.

Last month, Fenton says there were approximately 3,300 pediatric respiratory-related emergency room visits, or an average of about 131 per day across the health authority region.

"Our typical November would be closer to 1,350 on average."

There were also 106 hospital admissions in November.

The peak of the respiratory season is typically the week between Christmas and New Year, however, Dr. Fenton says it's impossible to predict where the virus is going and how bad it could be during that expected peak period.

"All I can do is urge people to take as many precautionary measures as they are able," she says.

"The more we can protect ourselves, we also protect those around us because we are not spreading germs to them."

Dr. Fenton recommended receiving the influenza vaccination which she says is a good match this year.

She also recommended people stay up to date with COVID vaccinations which can protect against systemic infection.

"For all the other viruses that are spreading, staying home when you're sick, being diligent about covering your cough and washing your hands frequently."

Dr. Fenton says it's impossible to know why this flu season is so much worse than normal, adding there is only enough data to hypothesize as to why.

"The hypothesis I tend to lean towards is we were very effective at preventing nearly all respiratory viruses for two years and, normally, when we were not under COVID, people would have a respiratory infection a couple of times a year and we eliminated that."

Children can get immunized with the influenza vaccine at pharmacies across Interior Health or at a number of pop-up clinics being offered.

Click here for a list of clinics.

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