VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As the spectre of flu season looms over North America, there are early signs that the number of outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths could be higher than normal in BC.
The province’s chief medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall says H3N2 influenza A is emerging as the dominant strain.
“If we do see H3N2, then it could be what we would call a rather bad flu season, particularly for older people,” Kendall warns. “We’ll see people hospitalized, and we’ll see outbreaks in long-term care facilities.”
Australia has just suffered through one of its worst flu seasons in recent years because of H3N2, which is also the strain responsible for the Hong Kong Flu pandemic of the late 1960’s which killed 750,000 people.
But Kendall adds that it’s still too early to say for certain if H3N2 will be the dominant strain in BC. It’s possible that role will be filled by H1N1 — the “swine flu,” which spread to epidemic proportions in 2009.
Either way, there’s plenty of time to prepare: December 1st is considered to be the official start of flu season, with the peak hitting in January and February.
“Getting the flu shot is really your best way of trying to protect yourself and to protect other people who are vulnerable,” Kendall says.
Patients over 65 with an underlying health condition like diabetes are also advised to talk to their doctors about anti-viral drugs on top of the shot.
Influenza kills around 3,500 Canadians and sends 12,200 to the hospital every flu season.