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Near-zero circulation of influenza in B.C. for second season in row

Another year, another season without the flu
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. would typically see a 32 per cent flu test positivity rate.

For the second season in a row, there has been no community spread of influenza in B.C. and Canada.

The most recent influenza surveillance bulletin from the BC Centre for Disease Control shows there have been just 290 detected cases of the flu in B.C. between Oct. 3, 2021 and March 12, 2022. A total of 142,931 specimens were tested, translating to a test positivity rate of 0.2 per cent.

While that’s a tiny increase from last year’s completely non-existent flu season, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic B.C. would typically see a 32 per cent flu test positivity rate — and thousands of cases — for the six weeks between Jan. 30 and March 12.

There have been just 14 confirmed flu cases in the Interior Health region this season on 24,805 samples tested.

The federal government, meanwhile, says “there has been no evidence of community circulation of influenza in the 2021-2022 season to date.”

There have been fewer than five influenza-associated hospitalizations in Canada from Aug. 29, 2021 to March 12, 2022.

In the United States, there has been more circulation of influenza, but not by much. The country has seen a three per cent positivity rate on more than 1.8 million samples tested this season.

Health experts have suggested COVID-19 related restrictions and masking have all but stopped the spread of influenza. What apparently didn’t have an impact so far this year, was the flu vaccine.

Preliminary data from the CDC in the U.S. found seasonal influenza vaccination did not reduce the risk for respiratory illness caused by the influenza strains that have predominated so far this season.

The CDC still recommends seasonal influenza vaccination for everyone older than six months old.

“Vaccination can prevent serious influenza-related complications caused by viruses that might circulate later in the season, including 2009 pandemic A(H1N1) and influenza B viruses,” the CDC said.

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