Flu virus hits city care homes

Health: Outbreak under control at Hillside, still in effect at Bastion Place.

Flu is breaking out all over.

An outbreak was declared for Hillside Village but was declared over last Friday.

Another one in the transition and special care section of Bastion Place remained in effect this week.

For most individuals, the flu brings high fever, runny nose, overall aching and a harsh cough; then leaves its victims tired but on the mend.

But for some, the flu can be deadly, particularly the elderly and those with compromised immune systems due to other conditions.

The particular strain can also be a factor in the severity of the outbreak.

“We’ve had a number of respiratory outbreaks and many are coming back Influenza A H3N2, a particularly severe virus for seniors and the elderly, particularly if there are other health conditions,” said Dr. Trevor Corneil, medical health officer with Interior Health last Friday. “Not surprisingly, we’re seeing respiratory outbreaks in Salmon Arm and likely they will also be due to Influenza A.”

Corneil says there was an issue with the makeup of the flu shot  this year in that there was a partial mismatch between the A H3N2 portion of the vaccine and the virus that’s circulating – something that decreases the potency.

“People will have good protection against B and A H1N1 and somewhere between 30 and 60 per cent effectiveness with the A H3N2,” says Corneil. “That doesn’t mean it’s not effective; we do know it’s making a difference and those immunized are not as likely to get it. And, if they do, it’s less severe.”

Figuring out which strain of the flu will circulate in any given year is a game researchers play every year, Corneil says.

“Influenza does circulate seasonally around the world, and what was interesting this year is that there were early indications this would be predominantly H1N1,” he says.

Specialists at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) looked at Australian data and saw there were cases of A H3N2 giving the health authorities a heads up.

“It means we know it will be a year where people will be sicker than we like to see and that it will be affecting more people,” Corneil says, noting the strain circulates every two to three years. “What we’re seeing is not unexpected, but it still does catch people by surprise.”

For privacy reasons, Interior Health does not release the number of people in facilities who are sick with influenza.

“Only when there is a risk to the population would we make that data public,” Corneil says, advising people to be very careful when visiting care facilities and staying away if they are ill or if there is a known outbreak

“When it’s influenza A we use quite aggressive precautions because we know how sick people can get.”