Students in the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows School District appear to be getting sick and missing school, as part of a larger trend in the province.
“We began monitoring student absence rates around Nov. 20, because we were hearing from our schools that absence rates were high,” said School District 42 spokesperson Irena Pochop.
Through the month of November, the district’s student absence rate average was 18 per cent each day. This compares with a pre-pandemic student absence rate of 10 per cent in November of 2019.
“The data we retrieved confirmed that student absences are higher overall this year than they were last year at this time. It’s important to note, however, that not all schools are seeing this increase, and that at some schools, absences are actually a bit lower than they were the previous year,” said Pochop. “But district-wide the numbers are higher overall.”
On Monday, public health officials held a press conference to urge parents to get their children a flu shot.
“As we enter the holiday season, we know, right now, that we are in the height off the influenza season,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix “As people gather and spend more time together, the influenza virus has more opportunities to spread. This means we are expecting and preparing for more influenza cases.”
Dix said this is the time to get a flu shot, particularly for children.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, offered an update on the respiratory illness situation.
She said B.C. is about two to three weeks into its flu season, which typically lasts six to eight weeks. Because the flu is believed to be behind much of the surge in hospitalizations, particularly among children, emergency room visits will likely increase further as the virus heads towards its peak.
Henry explained restrictions on travel due to COVID-19 in recent years has have meant less flu in circulation. However the Southern Hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand, saw bad flu seasons this year. Now it is hitting Canda.
Children have not seen influenza in past two or three years, said Henry, but now B.C. hospitals are seeing more severe cases and complications from flu, including bacterial infections and pneumonia.
“We still have time to blunt the impact of this transmission by getting people vaccinated,” said Henry.
She noted flu shots are free for everyone over six months of age.
Children under five are most at risk, as are older children and adults with chronic conditions.
Information about flu shots is available on the Fraser Health website at fraserhealth.ca
Henry advised people to stay home when they are feeling sick, particularly when they have a fever. Cover coughs, wash hands, and wear a mask if they have symptoms.
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