Health officials are warning of a potentially deadly flu season ahead.

Health officials are warning of a potentially deadly flu season ahead.

Warning of deadly flu season ahead

This year's main flu virus is the particularly dangerous H3N2 strain, and residents are urged to get immunized against it.

Jeff Nagel

B.C. may be in for one of the deadliest flu seasons in recent years, and public health officials are hoping more at-risk residents get vaccinated.

But they’re facing an uphill battle: use of the influenza vaccine dipped to around 35 per cent of the B.C. population last flu season, after peaking a year earlier at nearly 40 per cent.

Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said she believes some people skipped the vaccine last year following disclosure that the 2014–15 vaccine gave virtually no protection against the flu strain that ended up circulating.

That mismatch problem doesn’t appear to have resurfaced this year, however.

Skowronski said signs so far indicate the more dangerous H3N2 influenza strain will dominate this flu season and “pack quite a wallop” following a relatively mild H1N1-dominant flu season last winter.

“H3N2 viruses are associated with the greatest disease burden: more intense, severe epidemics, more hospitalizations and deaths,” Skowronski said. “A number of us are concerned that it’s H3N2 we’re likely facing this year. We are already picking up care facility outbreaks due to H3N2 viruses. That is very early.”

The new vaccine formulation includes an H3N2 component that so far appears to be a good match to the strain in circulation so far.

“That can change. That can flip flop. But at least going into the season, that’s looking promising.”

She added that how well the vaccine fits the virus is only one of the factors that drives the effectiveness of flu vaccines.

The H3N2 vaccine effectiveness has traditionally hovered around 50 per cent, she added, so even if it’s well matched against what’s circulated, protection is not assured.

“It doesn’t mean that you are invincible if you get the vaccine, but I’m certainly expecting more decent protection than had I been picking up signals in the circulating virus that it was drifting away from the vaccine component.”

Skowronski said she hopes high-risk people in particular—the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions—aren’t dissuaded from taking the vaccine this time.

“The vaccine can be a life saver, and it would really be a tragedy if they chose not to get the vaccine because one year happened to be a miss on the match.”

National statistics show the worst flu season of the last five years—2014–15—resulted in nearly 600 deaths across Canada and more than 7,700 hospitalizations from confirmed cases.

But Skowronski cautioned that any statistics of that sort grossly undercount actual deaths, because most victims are never tested to confirm a flu virus.

For more information on who is eligible for free flu shots and where to get them, see immunizebc.ca and the site’s flu clinic locator.

Just Posted

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

Kelly Servinski, of the Tutti Hotel in Clinton, climbs above the river. (Photo credit: http://www.sterlinglorence.com/)
Gravel is the new gold: Cyclist bumps new biking trend

There’s gravel in them thar hills around Clinton

Amy Newman follows the route of the Cariboo Waggon Road — now Highway 97 — through Clinton. (Photo credit: New Pathways to Gold Society)
Grant received for Cariboo Waggon Road restoration project north of Clinton

New Pathways to Gold hopes to start work this summer on restoring sections of historic road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Most Read