Maple Ridge News

Fraser Health extra cautious with flu

The best ways to combat influenza are diligent hand hygiene and getting a flu shot.  - The News/Files
The best ways to combat influenza are diligent hand hygiene and getting a flu shot.
— image credit: The News/Files

A terrible flu season has prompted the Fraser Health Authority to require everyone going to its nursing or retirement homes or assisted living facilities to wear a mask and practise stringent hand hygiene during their time there.

Only those who have received a flu shot this year will be exempt. The new requirement includes all staff, volunteers and visitors.

Fraser Health is asking people to avoid going to residential care and assisted living facilities if they are not feeling well.

Already this flu season, 19 Fraser Health residential care facilities have reported influenza outbreaks, with "significant consequences for residents."

This is more than twice as many outbreaks as were reported each of the past two years.

Also this flu season, there have been more than three times the number of deaths associated with influenza among residents of residential care facilities than for the past three years combined.

There has also been more than four times the number of flu-related hospitalizations from long-term care facilities than in a typical flu season. Flu-related visits to Fraser Health emergency departments are at the highest level in years.

The residential care facilities affected locally include Bailie House, Holyrood Manor and Maple Ridge Seniors Centre. There will be masks and hand sanitizers at the front entrance for visitors.

The additional measures to safeguard public health may not stop with masks at residential facilities.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder has declared the level of influenza virus circulating within Fraser Health communities a health hazard under the provisions of the Public Health Act. This allows for additional measures to be taken to safeguard the public health.

This year's flu makes patients sicker for a longer period of time, and the symptoms are worse, said Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, Fraser Health's medical director of infection prevention and control.

"Flu comes in cycles of severity," she said, explaining that there have been two consecutive years of "light" flu.

"Perhaps we've become a bit complacent with how severe flu can be," she said.

The best ways to combat the influenza are diligent hand hygiene and getting a flu shot, and Brodkin noted, "it is still not too late to get your flu shot."

She said the flu season started earlier this year, and added, "I don't think we've seen the peak yet."

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