While there have been no flu outbreaks in Nanaimo and central Vancouver Island so far, Island Health suggests getting a flu shot. (News Bulletin file)

Mid-Island flu bug quiet, but health authority still recommends flu shot

Dr. Paul Hasselback says 260,000 doses of vaccine distributed so far

While there have been no flu outbreaks in Nanaimo and central Vancouver Island thus far, a medical official still advises people get their flu shot.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s Nov. 21 influenza bulletin classifies the current situation as “low-level sporadic influenza activity” across the province, and while Dr. Paul Hasselback, Vancouver Island Health Authority medical health officer for the region, said the situation is similar in the central Island area, fluctuations can occur with little warning.

“The numbers are really small at this point,” Hasselback said to the News Bulletin. “When we see influenza, we tend to get a huge wave of illnesses happening and we haven’t seen that wave start yet. We sometimes see sporadic cases and we certainly haven’t had any outbreaks in the central Island area yet. All this can change very quickly.”

RELATED: VIHA has thousands and thousands of doses of flu vaccine

Hasselback said the dominant strain seen in Canada and globally this year is the H3N2 influenza A strain and suggests getting vaccinated.

“We’ve distributed over 260,000 doses,” said Hasselback. “A lot of that’s already in people’s arms providing that protection. It’s still good to get till the time where we start seeing that wave of influenza happening and even then, it may be beneficial, but we strongly, strongly recommend it. We actually plan our vaccination programs so that we get most of it into people by the end of November.”

While flu season can last four to six weeks, according to Hasselback, it can be difficult to pinpoint when it begins. The flu bug tends to move from west to east, meaning there isn’t a lot of advance warning in B.C., he said.

“What we can never predict is when it first starts and so we generally say we’re likely to see it sometime between the beginning of December and sometime in April,” said Hasselback. “We might get one or two waves during that time. It’d be rare that we don’t get any, in fact I can’t remember a year in my career where we didn’t have any influenza. So it’s really a question of when are we going to see this.”



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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