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Richmond flu clinics opening Thursday

By Don Fennell

Published 3:15 PDT, Tue October 20, 2020

The flu season in the southern hemisphere this past winter was unusually mild. But Richmond medical health officer Dr. Meena Dawar says precaution is still the best medicine.

“It is possible that our (flu) season may also be mild, though we can’t count on a mild season to protect us. Therefore, it is important to be immunized.”

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is recommending everyone get the flu shot this year, but with no drop-ins the public is being asked to book appointments online or call 604-233-3126 in advance. Clinics in Richmond are scheduled to open this Thursday (Oct. 22).

While flu activity remains below average for this time of the year—both in BC and nationally—Health Canada says testing for the flu continues at elevated levels. It says one flu-like outbreak was reported at a school or daycare between Oct. 4 and 10, and to date 44 outbreaks have been reported in these settings which is higher than normal.

The last major flu epidemic in Canada emerged in the spring of 2009. Known as the swine flu, it was a strain of the influenza A virus subtype H1N1. The World Health Organization (WHO) raised its influenza pandemic alert to its highest level after sustained outbreaks in two or more countries, and a year later 214 countries had reported H1N1 cases with more than 18,000 deaths worldwide. In Canada, 428 people died and thousands more were infected, according to Statistics Canada.

While WHO declared the H1N1 pandemic to be over on Aug. 10, 2010, the virus continues to exist. VCH says the best defence continues to be getting a flu shot, which this year will protect against three strains of influenza viruses including H1N1.

WHO says while deaths from COVID-19 are between three and four per cent worldwide, the true mortality of coronavirus won’t be understood for some time. And while it says various hygiene and physical distancing measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19 have likely played a role in reducing influenza virus transmission so far this year, the flu still claims up to 500,000 lives annually.

As recently as 2018, numbers compiled by Statistics Canada indicate 8,511 Canadians lost their lives to the flu. This compares to an annual average of between 6,500 and 7,600 over the previous years to either the flu or pneumonia.

The worst outbreak of the flu was known as the Spanish flu epidemic just over 100 years ago. The BC Centre for Disease Control notes that only a week after the first death from the flu was recorded on Oct. 10, 1918 in Vancouver, an estimated 900 cases were reported and 32 more deaths recorded. Globally, the Spanish flu—a strain of H1N1—is estimated to have killed up to 100 million people.

This year, flu shots will be administered in Richmond in the cafeteria at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, 8711 Lansdowne Rd., as follows:

• Oct. 22, 28, 29 and 30––9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:10 and 4 p.m.

• Nov. 2––9 to 11:30 a.m.,

• Nov. 5––3:30 to 7 p.m.

• Nov. 7—9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:10 to 4 p.m.

• Nov. 9—9 to 11:30 a.m.

• Nov. 14––9 to 11:30 a.m. to 1:10 to 4 p.m.

• Nov. 16––9 to 11:30 a.m.

• Nov. 19, 21 and 26––9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:10 to 4 p.m.

• Nov. 28—9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:10 to 4 p.m.

• Dec. 5—9 to 11:30 a.m and 1:10 to 4 p.m.

• Dec. 12—9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:10 to 4 p.m.

• Dec. 19—9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:10 to 4 p.m.

Flu shots will also be available at the Richmond Public Health office at 8100 Granville Ave. three days per week Oct. 22 to Dec. 19 (two clinic times per day).

Influenza is a virus which causes infection of the upper airway, and can lead to symptoms of fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and cough. Complications from influenza, such as pneumonia, are more common in the very young, the elderly and those with heart, lung or other health conditions. Influenza is easily spread from person to person, and an infected person can spread the virus before they are even sick with symptoms.

Having increased the number of flu clinics this year to meet expected demand, VCH is also trying to contain and prevent the spread of not only COVID-19, but other severe respiratory diseases like the flu. VCH says getting a flu vaccine can reduce your chance of developing symptoms resembling COVID-19, which would require testing and self-isolating.

Flu shots will also be available at doctor's offices, pharmacies, walk-in clinics, public health clinics or at a number of temporary clinics throughout the region beginning in late October.

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