The flu vaccine’s arrival on Vancouver Island may be delayed for some, but the virus itself arrived several weeks ago.
Island Health has said some adult flu vaccine shipments were delayed this year but have begun to arrive in health units.
Flu season typically begins in late December and lasts until April, but according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s weekly influenza reports, several regions in Western Canada were reporting influenza activity ranked as localized or sporadic by week 40 – Sept. 29 to Oct. 5.
The influenza activity levels are categorized into five categories: no data, no activity, sporadic activity, localized activity and widespread activity.
In the no activity stage, there are no positive laboratory results for influenza in the time period, but influenza-like-illness (ILI) could still be reported. A region classified as having sporadic activity will have no outbreaks but some positive lab results for ILI. Localized activity is classified as having evidence of ILI, positive laboratory tests for the virus and outbreaks in schools, hospitals or other facilities in less than 50 per cent of the region. Areas deemed to have widespread activity will see increasing evidence of influenza and outbreaks occurring in 50 per cent or more of facilities in the region.
According to the weekly influenza reports, in weeks 37 and 38 – Sept. 8 to 21 – no influenza activity was reported on Vancouver Island. But by weeks 39 and 40, localized activity had been reported in the region.
In mid-October, the activity dropped to sporadic but had since returned to the localized level.
According to data from the BC Centre for Disease Control, at this time in 2018, influenza activity was low in October and remained that way until activity increased in mid-November.
Medical health officers have acknowledged flu season has arrived early this year, said Island Health spokesperson Cheryl Bloxham. The officers are encouraging Island residents to get vaccinated in the next few weeks. While delays have affected the availability of adult flu vaccines, Bloxham emphasized that shipments are arriving every Thursday.
Medical health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback told Black Press Media the vaccines that had been ordered would all arrive by Nov. 14.
“There will be plenty of vaccines for everyone,” he added.
Influenza A (H3N2) remains the most common strain of the influenza virus in Canada this year. The 2019-2020 vaccine will protect against this strain and two others, so physicians are recommending getting vaccinated before the end of November.
The Influenza Activity Levels Across Canada map can be accessed on the Government of Canada website. Updates for week 43 and 44 had not been released by press time.