Fraser Health is urging residents to get the flu shot if they haven’t yet had it, after a surge in severe cases of H1N1 influenza.
As of Monday, 30 patients sick with suspected H1N1 had been treated in hospital intensive care units with artificial respiration, although some have since been discharged. Three of those ICU patients were at Ridge Meadows Hospital, said Dr. Michelle Murti, a medical health officer with the Fraser Health Authority.
One patient has died, but the case has not yet been confirmed as H1N1 flu.
Chief medical health officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder said the cases here are mirroring the pattern seen recently with outbreaks in Alberta, Ontario and Texas.
Ill patients here are not the very elderly, but adults of various ages from 20 to 60, he said. Two are pregnant women and others suffer from chronic illness or are overweight.
“We’re surprised at how many have come in such a short period of time with such severe disease,” Van Buynder said.
Hospitalized patients are generally at Royal Columbian, Surrey Memorial and Abbotsford Regional hospitals, but that’s just because the most seriously ill patients concentrate in the three big hospitals.
The virus isn’t limited to any particular community. “This is right across Fraser,” he said.
Murti said the symptoms are generally the same as more common influenza – a cough, fever, headaches and “wiped out tiredness.”
But the symptoms are more severe with the H1N1 patients who have wound up in ICU, and they have required ventilation and incubation support.
“It’s a matter of recognizing you’re ill, and seeing your physician, or going to emergency,” she said.
Van Buynder said all patients now hospitalized with the flu are expected to survive, but he said the outbreak is disturbing.
“We are urging those who have not already had their flu shot to get one. It is not too late.”
Anyone who got the 2013 flu shot is immunized against the now-circulating strain of H1N1, he said.
People who got the H1N1 flu shot in 2009 – when there was widespread concern about an outbreak of that strain – may have some immunity but are urged to get a new shot.
“We’re not sure whether this virus has moved a little bit,” Van Buynder said.
“We recommend people get the current vaccine rather than relying on the previous one.”
B.C.’s Influenza Control Policy came into effect Dec. 2 requiring health care workers, and visitors to hospitals and care centres to be either vaccinated or wear a mask.