H1N1 has made its largest resurgence since it first hit four years ago when alarming pandemic forecasts forced local health officials to prepare for the worst – when thousands from around the world were about to arrive in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Since Christmas, there has been a surge in H1N1 cases across Canada including in Metro Vancouver.
In Alberta alone, ten people have died from the flu since Christmas and another 300 are in hospital including 40 people in intensive care.
However, B.C. hasn’t experienced the same deadly cases that other provinces have seen. “Overall flu rates are much like last year except who is getting ill is different, as H1N1 affects younger people,” said Tiffany Akins, Communications Leader for Vancouver Coastal Health. “Within our jurisdiction, there have been around eight to 10 hospitalizations linked to H1N1, predominantly adults in their 40s, 50s and 60s with chronic medical conditions.”
“This outbreak is similar to 2009/2010, except that children under 5 and adults 18 to 64 are at increased risk,” added Atkins.
To prevent the spread of the flu to hospital patients, health officials are asking families of loved ones to take a flu shot or wear a mask when visiting a health care facility. Masks will be available at nursing stations and/or outpatient reception desks and/or major entrances to the buildings.
Health care staff are also doing their part to help protect patients in health care facilities. “Last year, British Columbia’s health authorities adopted a policy requiring all doctors, staff, students and volunteers to get immunized or to wear a mask while at work during influenza season,” said Atkins.
Do I have H1N1? What are the symptoms?
H1N1 usually causes disease in slightly younger adults or people with chronic illnesses, especially respiratory or heart conditions.
Influenza symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, extreme tiredness, and cough. Children may also experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Symptoms can begin about one to four days after a person is first exposed to the influenza virus. Fever and other symptoms may last up to seven to ten days, with the cough and weakness lasting up to two more weeks.
Influenza (the flu)
|Fever||Rare||Usual, sudden onset 39º-40º, lasts 7 to 10 days|
|Headache||Rare||Usual, can be severe|
|Aches and Pains||Sometimes mild||Usual, often severe|
|Fatigue and weakness||Sometimes mild||Usual, may last 2-3 weeks or more|
|Extreme fatigue||Unusual||Usual, early onset, can be severe|
|Runny, stuffy nose||Common||Sometimes|
|Chest discomfort, coughing||Sometimes mild to moderate||Usual, can be severe|
|Complications||Can lead to sinus congestion or earache||Can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, and more complications in persons with chronic diseases|
|Prevention||Frequent hand-washing||Yearly influenza vaccine and frequent hand washing|
|Treatment||No specific treatment is available; symptom relief only||Anti-viral drugs by prescription, which can reduce symptoms|
Get the flu shot
Your best defense this influenza season will be to get your flu shot. This year’s flu shot will give you protection against H1N1, among other flu strains.
Flu shots are offered free of charge in B.C. to a number of individuals, including children, seniors, pregnant women, Aboriginal people, individuals with chronic health conditions, and those who work or come in close contact with higher-risk groups.
You can get a flu shot at the following locations:
- With your family doctor.
- At a walk-in clinic.
- At some Vancouver Coastal Health Public Health units.
- With your pharmacist.
- At the VCH Travel Clinic.
- Find a clinic near you using the flu clinic locator.
How can I prevent the spread?
- Get a flu shot.
- Wash your hands. Frequent hand washing can reduce the risk of all respiratory infections.
- Cover your cough. You can also reduce the spread of germs by coughing and sneezing into your sleeves instead of your hands.
- Promptly dispose of used tissues in the waste basket or garbage.
- Stay at home. Anybody who thinks they have an influenza-like illness (i.e. fever and cough) should remain at home and limit exposure to others.
Featured Image: Woman with fever in bed via Shutterstock