Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)

After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

There have been 30,000 tests for the influenza virus completed in B.C. up to the first week of January, with no cases of infection from community transmission, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control reports.

Last winter at this time there were 19 influenza outbreaks reported in B.C. long-term care facilities, where the seasonal respiratory virus can be fatal. This year there are no reported cases in care homes, many of which have dealt instead with COVID-19 infections. Tests for influenza have accompanied COVID-19 tests as health care staff strive to protect vulnerable elderly people.

In its latest influenza surveillance bulletin, the BCCDC says testing up to Jan. 9 has had seven positive results in 30,000 tests, showing 12 different strains of seasonal influenza. But each of the seven people had received the live attenuated influenza vaccine, “suggesting vaccine-type rather than wild-type virus.”

“Overall, there remains no indication of influenza virus circulation in B.C.,” the BCCDC report says. “Elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, influenza virus detection remains exceptionally low.”

The B.C. government secured an extra 450,000 influenza vaccine doses this fall as part of its preparations for COVID-19, bringing the total to two million doses. Influenza typically drives an increase in hospital admissions each fall and winter, peaking at about 15 per cent of hospital admissions by February.

Before Christmas, Health Minister Adrian Dix said demand for the influenza vaccine was exceptionally high, with a million doses delivered. In November, there were reports of clinics and pharmacies in B.C. running short as their available supplies were dispensed at no charge.

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