Flu season brings more serious influenza virus H3N2 to BC

Oct 27 2016, 6:06 pm

This year’s flu season may be starting earlier than usual, with outbreaks of influenza A virus H3N2 already reported, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.

In an email to Daily Hive, Dr. Danuta Skowronski said published data shows about 80% of flu deaths, mostly in the elderly, are linked to the H3N2 kind of virus.

“During seasons that H3N2 viruses dominate, the overall tally of hospitalizations and deaths tends to be higher,” said Skowronski.

“The elderly in particular suffer most, although people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of severe influenza complications.”

By comparison, said Skowronski, last season the dominant kind of influenza A virus was H1N1 and the season was mild overall.

7 H3N2 outbreaks so far

H3N2 has not been a major cause of flu in North America since 2014/15, said Skowronski, but so far this season, there have been seven H3N2 outbreaks, mostly among seniors.

Skowronski says experts expect the H3N2 virus to be a bigger cause of flu this season; happily, this year’s vaccine does provide protection against H3N2.

“Influenza is very unpredictable and we cannot say precisely what the upcoming season will look like or whether these early care facility outbreaks also signal early community activity,” said Skowronski.

“So far activity is low overall in the population but we continue to monitor.”

Get the flu vaccine

This year’s flu shot will be available across BC by early November at public health clinics, doctors’ offices, travel clinics and pharmacies.

It is free to anyone at risk from complications, and their close contacts, including:

  • children between six months and five years;
  • seniors 65 and older;
  • pregnant women;
  • Aboriginal people;
  • individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems;
  • anyone who lives with any of these people; and
  • visitors to long-term care facilities and hospitals.

The nasal-spray vaccine is also offered free at public health clinics and doctors’ offices to kids aged two to 17 at risk of serious illness from flu or who live with someone who is at risk.

If you don’t qualify for a free flu shot, you can get vaccinated for about $20-$30.

To find your nearest flu shot clinic, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or check the online Influenza Clinic Finder.