Alberni care facilities hit with flu outbreak

Flu season has hit the Alberni Valley this year with a “made over” version of the flu virus that was expected this year.

Flu season has hit the Alberni Valley this year with a “made over” version of the flu virus that was expected this year. Echo Village, Fir Park and Rainbow Gardens have dealt with flu outbreaks already this  season.

“We’ve certainly seen a surge of influenza activity since the start of the Christmas break and that’s right across the island,” said Paul Hasselback, Medical Health Officer for Central Island through Island Health.

Most of the flu outbreaks have been in the south Island. “That includes not just the outbreaks in long-term care but admissions to hospitals,” he said, adding that “those are called the tip of the iceberg; we know that typically those are reflective of the amount of [flu] activity in the community.”

The flu strain seen both on the Island and across the majority of North America is the H3N2 strain.

“We’re talking a large domination by one strain and that’s fairly typical.”

Unfortunately, that strain isn’t exactly what the flu vaccine was designed for this year. “About six months ago we saw what we call a drift or a slight change in the influenza virus,” Hasselback said, adding that “in order for the virus to survive it needs to change itself.

“Some people  will recognize the made over virus and some won’t so we don’t expect the vaccine to be as effective.”

As the virus is now slightly different, the vaccine is less effective, although still recommended.

“Absolutely, there’ll be some protection provided to some people, some people will get less severe illness if they do come down with it. It’s the best protection that we can provide at this point.”