As flu season nears its end, Island Health warns that we’re not quite out of the woods yet, and there could still be another wave in late February or March.
Dr. Dee Hoyano, Island Health medical health officer, said this year was an unusual one as two separate strains hit the region.
“Typically we get influenza A and then later on we get more of B,” she said. “This year it’s been a real mixed bag and we’ve seen B earlier this year.”
While peak activity has passed, Hoyano said the health authority was prepared for the high volume of flu cases seen this year. Across the Island, 248,000 doses of vaccine were distributed, an increase of roughly 20,000 from last season.
“In terms of what we’re actually seeing on the ground, the majority of people going into hospital [with the flu] are the elderly or others suffering with chronic ailments,” she explained, adding the surge in visits is always expected around influenza time.
A recent Canadian study published in the New England Journal of Medicine linked the occurrence of heart attacks with influenza. The risk of suffering a heart attack is six times higher in the seven days after you’ve been diagnosed with the flu, it stated.
“We know it is a systematic infection,” Hoyano said. “The [flu puts] a lot of stress on your body; your immune system is working harder and often times it puts demand on your heart and lungs.”
Knowing your health status and that of your family members is important when deciding whether or not to get the flu shot, Hoyano said. “The vaccine is really important … for people who are at higher risk of heart disease,” she added.
And, if you want to get the flu shot, there’s still time. The vaccine protects against multiple strains of influenza, even if you’ve already been sick. To find out if you’re eligible for the free flu vaccine, visit VIHA.ca/flu.