SURREY (NEWS1130) – The Fraser Health Authority has declared the current level of influenza virus within its communities a health hazard under provisions in the Public Health Act.

This allows for additional measures to protect people in the region.

Nineteen long-term care facilities have reported influenza outbreaks so far this year; that’s more than twice as many as reported in each of the past two years.

“Effective immediately, all people attending a residential care or assisted living facility who have not received a flu shot this year, including staff, volunteers and visitors, will be required to wear a mask and practice stringent hand hygiene during their time at the facility,” says Fraser Health CEO Dr. Paul Van Buynder.

“We’ve got to stop the flu getting into these facilities. We know it is coming in with the visitors, the volunteers, the staff, and the others. They’re bringing it into the facility and then the patients are getting sick and some of them are dying,” he adds.

He’s asking everyone to get vaccinated, especially children, pregnant woman and those with chronic disease.

“If you’re not vaccinated, if you have a loved on in a long-term care facility, if you need to visit them, don’t do it if you’re unwell. If you are well, make sure you wash your hands in the facility and you wear a mask during your time there.”

Fraser Health also says ERs in the region have had the highest level of flu-related visits it has seen in years.