Flu season hits B.C. earlier than expected, disproportionately impacting children

Click to play video: 'B.C. seeing spike in influenza cases'
B.C. seeing spike in influenza cases
WATCH: The flu season is hitting our province and can be severe for children and vulnerable adults. B.C. health officials say it's begun earlier than usual and are encouraging all British Columbians to get their vaccination. Richard Zussman has more. – Dec 5, 2022

British Columbia has seen a sudden surge in Influenza A cases leading to a sharp rise in absenteeism at schools and more severe cases in children.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says flu cases have come sooner than expected and less natural immunity in children is having an impact on spread and severity.

Click to play video: 'B.C. health officials encourage parents of small children to register for flu vaccine'
B.C. health officials encourage parents of small children to register for flu vaccine

“More of them are getting sick and we see that absenteeism at schools,” Henry said at an update Monday.

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“We are starting to see more severe cases along with complications from influenza. We know influenza can lead to secondary bacterial infections and has a greater impact on children than COVID.”

Henry is encouraging British Columbians, especially children, to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Typically, influenza season lasts about eight weeks and vaccines can help slow the spread.

More than 1.5 million doses of flu vaccine have been doled out in the province, but the youth vaccination rate continues to be staggering low.

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19, flu and RSV take toll in B.C.'
COVID-19, flu and RSV take toll in B.C.

Many children are not registered in the Get Vaccinated system, and the province will be taking the new step of notifying families of young children directly to book an appointment.

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“There are lots of options available for parents to bring their children in to get vaccinated,” Dr. Penny Ballem, the head of B.C.’s vaccination program, said.

For example, only 20 per cent of kids five to 11 have received their flu vaccine.

Kids five to 11 are eligible to receive a vaccine at a pharmacy.

“We can blunt this curve with vaccination now before the holidays so we can have safe and joyful holidays,” Henry said.

“What we are seeing now is a more typical influenza season but it is happening sooner. We still have the time to blunt the impact by getting people vaccinated. Particularly for children who we see are more impacted.”

Click to play video: 'Dr. Bonnie Henry encourages British Columbians to plan ahead to stay safe this holiday season'
Dr. Bonnie Henry encourages British Columbians to plan ahead to stay safe this holiday season

The province has seen a levelling off RSV, which earlier this fall was having a severe impact on children.

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COVID-19 remains steady but is largely impacting older adults.

Some health officials have been calling this fall a “tripledemic” of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza.

Illness has been soaring among children, with B.C. Children’s Hospital being so busy that patients are often left waiting hours to see a doctor.

Click to play video: 'BC Children’s Hospital opens overflow unit'
BC Children’s Hospital opens overflow unit

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“It’s still out there, we need to get our shots, as well as our flu shots, stay home if we’re sick, have a mask on our person if we need to pull it out and keep washing our hands,” Dr. Brian Conway with Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre told Global News.

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