'Influenza is here' with outbreaks at 5 Vancouver Island care homes

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Vancouver Island health authorities are expecting a more severe than usual flu season with outbreaks confirmed in at least five care facilities on Vancouver Island. 

Medical Health Officer Paul Hasselback said outbreak precautions are in place at several facilities to help protect vulnerable elderly residents, with staff and visitors urged to be vigilant about handwashing and limit visits. 

"We're seeing an increase in the number of lab reports coming in that suggest that influenza is here. We'd better get prepared," Dr.Hasselback told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. 

The Dufferin, Eden Gardens and Origin at Longwood facilities in Nanaimo have confirmed Influenza A cases. Trillium Lodge in Parksville and Glengarry Hospital in Victoria are affected by outbreaks of Influenza B. 

Meanwhile test results are pending at three other seniors care facilities in Nanaimo, Victoria and Sidney.

Hasselback said influenza has a different "personality" every year, but it is particularly unusual for two different strains of the virus to appear at the same time.

"The predictions from our influenza experts globally suggest that we're going to be in for a heavier year this year," he said.

Hasselback said even though controversy persists over the effectiveness of flu vaccines, they remain the best influenza prevention tool currently available. 

Some of the vaccines offered this season contain both Influenza A and Influenza B protection. 

'Immaculate personal hygiene' urged

Hasselback said influenza rates are expected to increase for the next couple of weeks and continue for the next four to six weeks across Vancouver Island. 

In the meantime, he said, staff, visitors and volunteers are being urged to follow "immaculate personal hygiene" at facilities affected by influenza outbreaks by washing their hands on their way in and out of the building.

Interactions between sick and healthy residents are reduced and visitors are being asked to see only one or two residents per visit and to stay away if they are sick themselves.