Influenza is hammering the Lower Mainland, including some Langley health facilities, as one of the worst flu seasons in years has caused outbreaks at a number of health care facilities.
On Tuesday, the Fraser Health Authority declared the current level of influenza a health hazard.
In Langley, the Marrwood facility at Langley memorial is having a respiratory illness outbreak, Langley Gardens had a respiratory illness outbreak declared on Jan. 6, and Cedar Hill had a flu outbreak declared Jan.
The Marrwood and Langley Gardens outbreaks have not yet been confirmed as the flu, but that's the most likely cause at this time of year, according to Roy Thorpe-Dorward of Fraser Health Authority.
So far, there have been approximately 20 outbreaks of the flu
in hospitals and care facilities throughout Fraser Health, the province's largest health region. Some outbreaks have already ended.
This is more than twice as many outbreaks as were reported in each of the past two years, flu-related visits to emergency departments are at the highest
level in years, and deaths from the flu are three times the numbers seen in the last three years combined.
The exact number of deaths due to the flu was not available.
To prevent the continued spread of the flu, everyone attending a care facility will have to wear face masks, unless they have already had a flu shot this year.
The policy will include staff, volunteers, and visitors, according to Fraser Health.
Signs have started to pop up on the doors of health facilities, next to piles of disposable paper masks and bottles of hand sanitizer.
Langley Lodge, in the City, doesn't have too many people wearing masks.
"We had a flu campaign here in October," said executive director Debra Hauptman.
About 85 per cent of their workforce, and 100 per cent of contract workers, got the shot. Volunteers without it will be staying home
until the health hazard warning is over.
Most of the people coming into the facility are very understanding about the extra measures, Hauptman said. After all, they're usually there to visit their families.
If feeling unwell, potential visitors to care facilities should stay at home.
"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," said Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Fraser Health's chief medical health officer.
For a healthy adult, the flu can be deeply uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it can be fatal for some young children, the elderly, and those with damaged immune systems.
Langley schools have so far escaped the worst effects of the flu.
The school district has a standing protocol to inform Fraser
Health if any school has more than 10 per cent absenteeism due to illness.
If that happens, not only will public health officials be warned, but there might be extra cleaning or other measures taken to try and reduce the spread of the illness.
"We haven't hit that in any of our schools just yet," said Sandy Wakeling, the spokesperson for the district.
Teachers have been calling in sick with the flu or other ailments, but the level of illness is not outrageously high considering it's cold and flu season, Wakeling said.
The Fraser Health area may be hit hard right now, but Vancouver Coastal isn't doing as badly.
Flu cases are higher than average, but within normal range for this time of year.