Woman dies after contracting H1N1 flu, Interior Health confirms as it warns there may be shortages of flu vaccine
Interior Health says a woman in her 50s died in late December after she contracted the same strain of flu that has claimed the lives of 16 people in the Prairies. Lab tests confirmed this week she had the H1N1 virus, said senior medical officer Dr. Rob Parker.
The health authority would not specify where the woman was from or whether she had an underlying health condition.
Seniors lined up for free flu shots in October and November. A second wave of people are now coming into pharmacies for the vaccine, most of them ages 20 to 55, said pharmacist Mark Chambers at the Dyck's Pharmacy on St. Paul Street.
Chambers "burned through" all 13 doses he had in the store Tuesday morning by the afternoon.
"It started last week once the news hit in Alberta," he said. "With the Okanagan having the first confirmed death, it exploded today."
The virus that has claimed the lives of six people in Saskatchewan and 10 people in Alberta is also making its presence felt in the Lower Mainland.
Two health authorities there reported more than 20 people have been hospitalized with the virus. Provincial medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall says medical officials still don't know whether one death in the Vancouver area can be blamed on the flu.
Parker said some pharmacies could see temporary shortages of the vaccination because the supply is tight. The five Dyck's Pharmacy outlets in Kelowna were running short or had depleted their stock by late Tuesday, Chambers said.
"We have more on order . . . We're hoping Interior Health will have more by next week."
IH has no plan to set up mass flu clinics in the Southern Interior, but health centres are offering the vaccinations throughout the region, said spokesperson Lannea Parfitt. People can call their local health unit for specific dates and times.
"They can also contact a pharmacy, their physician's office or walk-in clinic to find out if they are providing flu shots," she said.
Dyck's Pharmacies has a nasal version of the vaccine available but only a nurse or medical doctor can administer it, Chambers said. Children ages 2 to 17 with chronic medical conditions or who live close to people at risk are eligible for free doses of the flu mist.
The supplies of free, subsidized shots for adults are dwindling or no longer available. The going rate is about $22.
You can call your local health centre - Kelowna: 250-868-7700; West Kelowna: 250-980-5150; Penticton: 250-770-3434; Vernon: 250-546-2917; Summerland: 250-404-8000.