BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) influenza experts say influenza activity is increasing as the holiday season approaches.
Dr. Danuta Skowronski, influenza lead at the BCCDC, said high-risk individuals and their close contacts should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Our monitoring suggests the influenza epidemic will coincide with the festive period in a couple of weeks,” Skowronski said.
“Since it takes about two weeks for the influenza vaccine to induce protection, now is the time for high-risk individuals and their close contacts to get vaccinated, if they haven’t already.”
High-risk individuals are those with underlying medical conditions like heart and lung disease or those with weakened immune systems that make it harder to fight respiratory infections.
Complications such as pneumonia can be life-threatening for some and can lead to death.
Last year and the year before, there were severe epidemics due to the H3N2 kind of influenza A virus.
This year, the H1N1 kind of influenza A is mostly circulating instead.
Skowronski said both cause similar illness — fever, cough, aches and fatigue — but H3N2 viruses are hardest on the elderly, whereas H1N1 viruses tend to affect more children and non-elderly adults.
This year’s flu vaccine gives protection against both H3N2 and H1N1 viruses, as well as influenza B.
In addition to vaccination, Skowronski said there are other steps people can take to reduce their risk and minimize the spread of influenza and other viruses to others.
- Washing your hands frequently, especially if you’ve been out in public
- Avoiding touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth and nose
- Coughing and sneezing into your elbow. If you use a tissue, make sure to dispose of it properly and wash your hands
- If you are feeling unwell, stay home so you don’t pass your infection onto others, especially those who may be at higher risk