The growing toll of influenza has forced Fraser Health to declare the flu a "health hazard" and impose restrictions at residential care facilities throughout the valley.
Fraser Health says 19 long-term care facilities have reported outbreaks of the flu this year. That number is twice as many as reported in the previous three years combined. (An outbreak is classified as three people in the same area showing symptoms.)
And the spread of the flu isn't just an inconvenience, according to health officials.
"We have seen a significant number of hospitalizations and we have seen deaths," said Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, a medical health officer and Fraser Health's medical director for infection control.
Fraser Health said the number of flu-associated fatalities is already three times the total from the previous three years combined. And the number of hospitalizations has reached four times the average rate.
Brodkin says the flu occurs in cycles and this year follows several comparatively mild seasons.
That, she says, may have dulled people's vigilance against the flu.
"I think we've perhaps become a little complacent because of the mild seasons we've had and forgotten that flu can be a very serious and even deadly disease," she said.
With the flu declared a health hazard, all those visiting a residential care or assisted living facility who haven't received the flu vaccine must wear a mask and "practise stringent hand hygiene."
While some have questioned the efficacy of this year's flu vaccine, Brodkin said that while it is not perfect, it is "about as effective as past years' vaccine."
She said the vaccine is not a magic bullet that guarantees a person will not get the flu; it just makes it much less likely.
"The number-one thing you can do to protect yourself is to get a flu shot," she said.
The vaccine is most effective when combined with a younger person's immune system. It is less effective on older people. (Despite prevalent myths, a person cannot get the flu from the most common vaccine, which uses dead influenza viruses that cannot infect a person. A second, live nasal vaccine, better protects children but is not offered to those with weakened immune systems).
Brodkin also encourages people to stay home if they are sick and to practise good hand hygiene.