VANCOUVER — The “second wave” of the H1N1 pandemic is getting underway in Canada, with British Columbia reporting eight deaths as health officials grapple with a flu outbreak that is unprecedented for the province this time of year.
Federal health officials assured the public Friday that pandemic preparations are in place, even as they warned that other provinces should expect to see an increase in the number of H1N1 cases themselves.
Ontario has already reported a spike in flu-like activity, while reports of the deaths of 11 children in the U.S. in the past week sparked fears the long-feared resurgence of the pandemic strain of the virus is underway.
“British Columbia is now well into what we might call the second wave of the H1N1 pandemic,” Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said at a news conference at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control Friday.
“Compared to the rest of the country we are seeing significantly higher numbers of influenza-like illness at this time. Our rates of prescribing of antivirals have gone up to about 5,000 a week.”
Kendall said that while the flu rate in the province is unprecedented for this time of year, it is not unprecedented for a flu season. Seventy-eight flu patients have been hospitalized so far.
Kendall said it’s not unusual for influenza to affect one area, and leave others relatively unaffected.
“Somebody has to be first,” he said.
Kendall, who was joined at the news conference by federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and national public health officer Dr. David Butler-Jones, said the B.C. disease control laboratory is testing about 700 samples daily.
About half are testing positive for influenza and most of those are the H1N1 strain.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says there have been 80 H1N1-associated deaths recorded in the country.
But Aglukkaq said while Canadians should do their best to remain informed of H1N1, they can rest assured that the proper preparations have been made at the federal level.