Youth hit hardest by flu

Anastasia Gates gets her flu shot by public health nurse Nicola Shanks Thursday at the Vernon Health Unit.  - Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star
Anastasia Gates gets her flu shot by public health nurse Nicola Shanks Thursday at the Vernon Health Unit.
— image credit: Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star

With 40 lab-confirmed cases of H1N1 in the Interior Health region, including one death, those who haven’t done so already are urged to get the flu shot.

This year’s surge in severe cases of H1N1 has already claimed 10 lives in Alberta (another Alberta resident died from H5N1, avian flu), and now an Okanagan woman in her 50s has died. The name or location of the woman is not expected to be released, all that is known is she died during the last week of December.

The 40 lab-confirmed cases (which represents about a dozen from the Okanagan) is just for the past two weeks and is rising.

“The virus is actively circulating right now but we’re not at the peak,” said Dr. Rob Parker, Medical Health Officer.

Parker expects it will be another one to two weeks before the influenza season peaks, which gives minimal time to those who haven’t already done so to get the shot (which takes approximately two weeks before it is effective).

During a drop-in clinic Thursday, the Vernon Health Unit ran out of the vaccine but is hoping to have new stock for next week’s clinic. Parker said some pharmacies are also running out as approximately 95 per cent of the stocks have been used up.

The Vernon Health Unit offers Thursday drop-ins for the flu shot for adults and teenagers from 9 to 11:30 a.m., and for children and their caregivers from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information call the flu line at 250-549-6306. Both a shot and a vapor are available for children.

Anastasia Gates and her husband missed the first round of flu clinics this winter, so agreed better be safe than sorry and attended Thursday’s clinic.

“We decided we better get one with all the reports on TV,” said Gates, one of several seniors getting the shot Thursday.

But according to Parker, this atypical strain appears to be hitting younger generations the hardest.

“This year it seems to be hitting young adults (20 to 65) and pre-schoolers,” said Parker, adding that those with chronic health conditions are also at increased risk.

In fact, he says, it’s seniors who are most protected.

“We know that seniors would have seen a different strain of H1N1 in the 50s. They are also used to getting the vaccine each year.”

The recent death of an Okanagan woman in her 50s shows H1N1 has no age bias.

“We can see serious influenza, even in the working population,” said Parker.

Those who did receive the H1N1 vaccine in 2009 do have some protection, but that is fading. Therefore those who haven’t already done so are urged to get a new shot.

“It’s like not putting on winter tires in the winter, why would you take the risk?”


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