The region's medical officer is urging Sea to Sky residents to get their flu vaccination this season, as the H1N1 virus, which surged during a global pandemic in 2009, has returned to the province.
The H1N1 virus, informally known as swine flu, is one of three strains covered by this year's vaccine, with the number of cases in decline until recently. At press time, at least 40 people in B.C. this season have been hospitalized as a result of the virus, with The Vancouver Sun reporting one confirmed death and two deaths believed to have been flu-related as of Jan. 8. The virus has also resulted in five confirmed deaths in Alberta this flu season and 270 hospitalizations. There have been confirmed cases in the corridor, said Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) medical officer Dr. Paul Martiquet, who did not have detailed figures available for Whistler.
"We are basically just getting into what will be a progressive worsening of flu activity in the flu season towards the end of January and February," he said. "We're still seeing increasing activity at this moment, so I think it's advisable for anyone who hasn't had a chance to get the vaccine to get it."
While children under five are especially vulnerable to the virus, Martiquet said it has also affected those "who are relatively healthy" in the 18 to 65-year-old age group. VCH offers free vaccinations to children from six months to five years old, seniors 65 and older, First Nations individuals and those with chronic health conditions.
Around 80 per cent of the positive influenza tests in the Sea to Sky show H1N1, Martiquet said, with most of the remaining 20 per cent revealing another flu strain, H3N2, which is covered by this year's vaccine. Martiquet confirmed that 7,000 Sea to Sky residents have received shots so far and that there are plenty still available at local doctor's office, pharmacies or the Whistler Health Care Centre.
The symptoms of H1N1 are similar to those of the regular seasonal flu, although severe cases in adults can result in shortness of breath, blue or grey lips, sudden dizziness, dehydration and other symptoms. For severe cases in children, symptoms include troubled breathing, vomiting, crankiness and seizures, according to the Canadian Lung Association.
For up-to-date information, visit: www.vch.ca.