Fraser Health Authority took an extra step in an attempt to reduce the spread of influenza this week and declared the virus a health hazard.
On Tuesday, the health authority's chief medical officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder declared the current level of influenza virus circulating within Fraser Health communities a health hazard under the provisions of the Public Health Act. The move allows the health authority to take additional measures to safeguard the health and well being of the most vulnerable community members.
Already this year, 19 Fraser Health long-term care facilities have reported flu outbreaks. While the flu usually does not result in any serious health concerns for healthy adults, it can have significant consequences for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, as well as young children.
The health authority has seen twice as many outbreaks as were reported in each of the last two years. In addition to that, Fraser Health is seeing flu-related emergency room visits at the highest level seen in years.
Effective immediately, anyone visiting a residential care or assisted living facility who has not received a flu shot this year, including staff, volunteers and visitors, will be required to wear a mask and practice stringent hand hygiene during their time at the facility. The health authority is also reminding visitors to avoid going to residential and assisted living facilities if they are feeling unwell.
"We are asking our patients, visitors and staff to take these extra steps to protect their family members, patients, residents and loved ones from this highly contagious and serious virus," Van Buynder said.
The health authority reported that this flu season it has seen more than fours times the number of flu-related hospitalizations from long-term care facilities than a typical year, and three times the number of deaths associated with influenza among residents of residential care facilities than for the last three years combined.
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