H1N1 outbreak puts seven in hospital

Seven people were admitted to Cowichan District Hospital with influenza during the last six weeks, according to Island Health.

Six have since been discharged. The patients are among 48 in the health authority’s service area admitted to various Island hospitals since Dec. 1, with 29 of those admissions occurring in the last week alone.

"All patients tested positive for influenza A (subtype H1N1). The number of patients who remain hospitalized across Island Health at this point is 24," said spokeswoman Valerie Wilson in an email.

While no outbreaks have struck schools or long-term care facilities since Dec. 1, Wilson said an increase of influenza activity was evident over the holidays and that trend is expected to continue through January.

The health authority urges those most at risk for contracting H1N1 (folks under 65 years old with chronic health conditions and children under the age of five) to be vaccinated.

"This year’s vaccine will protect against this circulating strain and we strongly encourage those in the most at risk groups to get immunized if they haven’t already," Wilson said. "Island Health strongly recommends that you get your flu shot if you haven’t already. Proper hand hygiene is also very important for preventing the spread of influenza."

Twelve per cent more vaccine has been dispensed this year so far compared to last year, Wilson noted.