Numerous reports of flu in Okanagan hospitals

The H1N1 flu that killed one Okanagan woman and is continuing to send others to area hospitals isn't expected to peak for two weeks, says an Interior Health official who is urging area residents to take precautions as the virus continues its spread.

"Influenza is circulating widely and the situation will still get worse,"  said senior medical officer Dr. Rob Parker.

"The risk of exposure will increase in upcoming days or weeks."

At last count, there were 40 confirmed cases of H1N1 in the Interior, while the number in other regions in B.C. rose at a similar pace. A number of those infected were recently admitted to intensive care units in hospitals across the province.

It's not a cause for panic, but what's different about this flu outbreak, Parker explained, is its impact on otherwise healthy, young people.

"This year the H1N1 strain seems to be hitting pre schoolers and working age adults with more serious presentations," he said. Strains of the virus have been circulating for decades, Parker explained, leaving the elderly with a unique advantage over young people. That said, those with compromised immune systems are also at higher risk for serious complications.

Vaccines are key to keeping the virus at bay, said Parker.

And, despite reports that there's been a run on the shot at area pharmacies, Parker says he's been informed that local health units still have a fairly healthy supply.

"Call up the health unit and find out what they have,"  he said, noting around 95 per cent of the area's 140,000 unit supply has been used up.

Parker wasn't able to add any details to the circumstances faced by the woman who reportedly died of the flu earlier this month.

He cited Interior Health's policy to respect the family's privacy as the reason for relative silence on the matter.

The virus  has claimed the lives of six people in Saskatchewan and 10 people in Alberta.

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