FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Every year, about 1,400 people in BC die from influenza, and pneumonia a serious complication of the flu — although so far this year, most surveillance indicators continue to show there’s low-level activity across the province and across the country.
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention say outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May, but the flu season commonly peaks in North America between now and February.
The low level activity thus far this year comes despite the fact the flu vaccine is reportedly providing only 30 to 50 per cent protection from the influenza A (H3N2) strain.
It is one of three kinds of flu viruses which commonly circulate among people today, with the others being influenza A (H1N1) viruses, and influenza B viruses.
The CDC says the large majority of those who get the flu shots experiences no serious problem, although side effects may include low-grade fever, and as well, redness, soreness, swelling and itching at the injection site.
Still, the advantages of getting the flu shots are much greater than any possible risks associated with them, and those who are falling ill this year, are again mainly in the high risk categories, including seniors over 65, as well as an increasing number of young victims seeking treatment at the B.C. Children’s Hospital ER in Vancouver.
The vaccine is provided free for many groups of people at higher risk, and locally still available by appointment at the health unit, local pharmacies, and a number of — but not all — doctor’s offices.
For a list of the high risk eligible groups you can check with the local public health unit, your family doctor, or go online.