Fraser Health has issued an alert declaring this season's flu a health hazard, with an outbreak of the virus and flu-related fatalities the highest in years.
On Tuesday, Dr. Paul Van Buynder said 19 Fraser Health residential long-term care facilities have reported influenza outbreaks this year.
He said that is twice as many outbreaks as were reported in the whole of the last three years and emergency departments are at the highest level of flu-related visits in years.
The region has already seen more than three times the number of flu-related deaths among residents of residential care facilities than for the last three years combined, according to a news release from Fraser Health.
Effective immediately, Van Buynder said 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 practise stringent hand hygiene.
Fraser Health, which is responsible for an area from Burnaby to Hope and Boston Bar in the Fraser Canyon, is reminding visitors to avoid going to residential care and assisted living facilities if they are feeling unwell.
"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 Van Buynder.