BRITISH COLUMBIA
01/04/2014 05:40 EST | Updated 03/06/2014 05:59 EST

H1N1 Flu Surge In B.C. Lower Mainland Lands People In ICUs

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The chief medical officer for a B.C. Lower Mainland health authority says that more than a dozen patients are in intensive care, some on ventilators, because of the H1N1 flu virus.

Dr. Paul Van Buynder, with Fraser Health, said Friday that 15 patients, many of them otherwise healthy, young people, were recently admitted to hospitals in the region.

"It is a lot for us at this particular time, especially because there is not a lot of circulating disease in the community at this point, and so we're worried that this has happened to so many people so quickly," he said.

He says the ages of the patients turning up with H1N1 flu span the spectrum, and include those in their 30s. He also said at least one of the patients is pregnant, and also that one person may have died from this flu strain.

"I have one person who hasn't been confirmed, but I'm pretty sure did pass away from this," Van Buynder told CBC News.

Van Buynder said medical officials are seeing small pockets of H1N1 breaking out across the region, in a pattern mirroring the flu's spread in Alberta, Ontario and Texas.

Alberta's Health Minister Fred Horne says there have been 965 lab-confirmed cases, another 251 people have been hospitalized due to influenza and five people have died so far this flu season.

The H1N1 flu outbreak of 2009, which the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, prompted mass immunizations across Canada.

Van Buynder said anyone visiting a hospital or health facility in B.C. will either need to wear a mask, or be vaccinated against the flu — and he said that previous vaccinations against H1N1 may not help anymore due to mutations in the virus.

"Certainly we don't think everybody should be reassured by previously being vaccinated, and we'd like them to make sure that they go out and get it again," he said.

Fraser Health serves more than 1.6 million people from Burnaby to Hope, to Boston Bar.

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