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Victoria Times Colonist – FluTracker maps capital region’s hot spots

February 5, 2014

Sarah Petrescu / Times Colonist

Greater Victoria has influenza hot zones, according to data gathered from social media.

The website FluTracker.ca, sponsored by SoftSoap, uses information from Twitter to map mentions of the flu. The site’s map shows several areas with low flu activity, but two hot spots in Oak Bay and Saanich.

Google also tracks flu trends, matching common search terms entered into its browser with activity reported by health authorities. According to Google Flu Trends, B.C. experienced a spike in flu activity in early January, which has declined, but still remains high.

This trend coincides with data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, which reported a spike in incidents throughout the province around Jan. 2.

“Since late December, early January, we’ve seen a decline but it could go up again,” said Sarah Plank from Island Health.

The regional health authority tracks hospitalizations of people with influenza.

Since Dec. 1, 2013, there have been 113 cases of people being hospitalized with the flu. Currently, 19 remain in hospital and three are in intensive care.

Five flu patients have died. Three were elderly and two had underlying health issues, Plank said.

An unprecedented demand for vaccines had the province ordering about 20,000 extra doses mid-January when supplies appeared to be dwindling. More than 1.4 million British Columbians rolled up their sleeves for a flu shot.

“We never ran out, but we did have to call around a bit,” Plank said. Stock is now in full supply and expected to last as flu season winds down.

Residents, especially those who have not been vaccinated, are reminded to take the usual preventive measures, such as hand-washing, staying home if sick and avoiding contact with anyone who might be vulnerable to flu affects.

If you develop symptoms, call the nurse hotline at 811 before visiting a doctor’s office.

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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