Flu cases on the rise

Interior Health reports increased number of flu sufferers this winter

The Fraser Health Authority is handing out flu shots or masks to hospital and long-term care centre visitors to deal with an influx of influenza cases.

While Interior Health has not seen the same level of illness, they are having a higher than normal season.

The provincial government has put out a fact sheet covering how to prevent the flu, and how to protect yourself and others when you come down with it.

The fact sheet is like music to the ears of those battling the seasonal flu: the number one tip they offer is for patients to stay home and rest to prevent spreading germs and to help you recover.

The province is seeing cases of regular influenza and norovirus, which are two different, short-lived flus.

Influenza is a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat and lungs. The symptoms are fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, pain and headaches – it’s an illness that everyone at one time or another experiences.

But for some, getting influenza can be very serious, and it can have life-threatening complications for the elderly, chronically ill, those with compromised immune systems and very young people. Severe illness can develop in those patients, and even death can result.

Norovirus is a 24 to 48 hour gastrointestinal illness that has no relation to influenza.

It causes stomach pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It rarely causes serious illness or complications.

Another difference is that influenza can be prevented by getting a flu shot.

At the Fraser Health Authority, all visitors to long term care facilities are being asked to wear masks if they do not have a flu shot, or being offered one on the spot.

It takes two weeks for the vaccine to begin working. The province is reminding residents that it is not too late to get the shot.

To decrease your risk of getting sick, wash your hands several times a day, and always after using the washroom.

The ministry suggests using warm water and soap, and scrubbing your hands for at least 30 seconds.

You can also use alcohol-based hand rubs, which are available at drugstores and are placed at hospitals and long-term care facilities in the province.

If you have any questions, call 811 to speak with a nurse in the province 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The ministry asks that those with influenza not go to the emergency room, because most cases of the seasonal flu do not need a doctor’s visit.

However if your flu progresses and you experience difficulty breathing or other signs of severe illness, do seek medical attention.