Up to 15 deaths linked to flu sweeping through care facilities in B.C. Interior

The Interior Health Authority (IHA) says up to 15 deaths may be linked to an outbreak of the influenza virus affecting 17 care facilities in the region.

Interior Health says persons may have died of other causes but died in a facility with influenza circulating

At least 17 care facilities in the B.C. Interior Health region are dealing with a flu outbreak.

The Interior Health Authority (IHA) says up to 15 deaths may be linked to an outbreak of the influenza virus affecting 17 care facilities in the region.

"This means that these persons may have died of other causes, but they have died in a facility where influenza was circulating," said IHA manager of communicable diseases Pamela de Bruin.

The IHA says either the whole site or a portion of it at each affected facility has put measures in place to prevent the further spread of the illness, including enhanced cleaning practices, limiting social social activities at the facilities and restricting visitations.

Elderly most severely impacted

She says it's not uncommon to see an increase in the number of flu cases over the holidays and into the first few weeks of January.

According to the heath authority, the circulating virus is an influenza Type A virus called H3N2.

"It can be particularly harsh on the elderly," said de Bruin.

She says she expects to see the virus have more impacts on care facilities and other related sites which will likely lead to more hospitalizations and deaths. 

Vaccine a 'good match'

"The best measure of prevention with influenza is immunization," said de Bruin.

"We know the vaccine this year is a good match to H3N2."

The health authority says there are still vaccines available in the region, but the shots may need to be moved around to make sure people in all its communities have access to the vaccine. De Bruin says people should call ahead to their pharmacy to ensure they will be able to access the flu vaccine.

She says there have been 86 lab-confirmed cases of the flu in the region so far this season.