H1N1 cases on the rise in Metro Vancouver: what you need to know

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Fever sick woman H1N1 flu influenza / Shutterstock

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.

Symptoms
Cold
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
Sneezing Common Sometimes
Sore throat 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.

How to hand wash propertly

How to hand rub

Influenza

Featured Image: Woman with fever in bed via Shutterstock

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Kenneth Chan Deputy Editor & Social Media Manager at Vancity Buzz. He covers stories pertaining to local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation, infrastructure, and anything else that makes a difference in the lives of Vancouverites. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]vancitybuzz.com
@iamkennethchan

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