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BC shows third week of 'sharp increases' in flu

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control reports "sharp increases in influenza activity indicators for the third consecutive week in B.C." These indicators include the number of patients presenting to "sentinel physicians," the proportion of ER visits to B.C. Children's Hospital, and school outbreaks of influenza-like illness.

These findings were published October 15 in the British Columbia Influenza Surveillance Bulletin for Week 40: October 4-10. The highlights:

In week 40 (October 4-10), BC continued to experienced a large increase in influenza activity.

All indicators including proportion of patients presenting to sentinel physicians for ILI, Medical Services Plan claims for influenza, proportion of emergency room visits to BC Children’s hospital, and laboratory positivity for influenza increased sharply compared to the previous week.

Seventeen school ILI outbreaks were reported during this period.

At the BC Provincial Laboratory, 35% (352/998) of respiratory specimens were positive for influenza A, and all subtyped isolates were the pandemic H1N1 virus (pH1N1).

Together surveillance indicators suggest that influenza activity due to pandemic H1N1 is increasing and remains above the expected range for this time of year.

The bulletin also includes summaries of the spread of H1N1 and influenza-like illnesses elsewhere in Canada and around the world. The summary for Canada:

During week 39, national influenza activity levels increased from the previous week. Compared to the week ending September 5, ILI consultation rates increased from 14 to 36 consultations per 1000 patient visits; this is above the expected range for this time of year.

The proportion of tests positive for influenza was 3.8%, which is low compared to the summer peak of 23%. Ninety-seven percent of all subtyped influenza A specimens were positive for pH1N1; the remainder were positive for seasonal H1N1. National levels were primarily driven by influenza activity in BC.

The Northwest Territories also indicated widespread activity. ILI activity was much lower in the rest of the country.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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