BCCDC puts call out for more doctors and nurses to help monitor for fluSep152015

Vancouver – Experts at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) are already gearing up to monitor flu-like illness for the coming season and they’re looking for more community doctors and nurses to help.

Influenza viruses constantly change, and each season the flu shot has to be updated to match the new strains that are most likely to make people sick. Last year, influenza got off to an early start and the 2014-15 flu season proved to be a difficult one, in part because of the vaccine mismatch. In BC, that translated into the highest number of care facility outbreaks in more than a decade.

“A changed strain of H3N2 virus that didn’t match the vaccine caused most of the influenza illness last winter,” says Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an influenza expert at BCCDC.  “H3N2 viruses tend to cause more illness, especially in older people, which is why it is so important to monitor this virus closely every year.”

In 2004, Dr. Skowronski’s team pioneered a study, known as the “test-negative design” for monitoring influenza vaccine effectiveness, a cost-effective approach that is used each year in Canada and has since been adopted by approximately 20 countries around the world. Yearly findings based on the test-negative design are submitted to the World Health Organization (WHO) to help decide whether changes to the influenza vaccine are needed.

“Last year showed the lowest vaccine effectiveness we have recorded in more than ten years,” says Dr. Skowronski. “The WHO has replaced last year’s H3N2 vaccine with a new one and we want to check that it gives better protection for the coming season. We rely on doctors and nurses in the community who belong to our monitoring network to help with that.”

The Canadian Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance Network (SPSN) is the only system in Canada to monitor how well the influenza vaccine protects people from influenza viruses circulating in the community each year. The SPSN uses the test-negative design, drawing on swabs and information collected from patients seeking care for flu-like illness at one of several hundred community practitioners belonging to the network.

“The SPSN has grown to include sites in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec but we need more family doctors and nurses to contribute from BC,” says Skowronski, the lead SPSN investigator. “After last year’s findings, monitoring flu viruses and vaccine protection is more important than ever.”   

Throughout September, the BCCDC team will be packaging and sending out hundreds of special swab kits to existing sentinel sites in BC, but the team is also recruiting more family doctors and nurses to join the network for the coming season. Family practitioners in BC who would like to join are asked to contact the BCCDC team at SentinelNetwork@bccdc.ca or 1-888-881-8886. Patients can also encourage their own family doctors to join by sharing information about the network with them.

General practitioners in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are also encouraged to apply to join the Canadian SPSN network for flu virus and vaccine effectiveness monitoring. See www.bccdc.ca/SentinelNetwork for details.

Learn more:

Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance Network 

BC influenza surveillance bulletins 


The BC Centre for Disease Control, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides provincial and national leadership in public health through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The Centre provides both direct diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities.


PICNet welcomes Linda HoangSep102015

Dr. Linda Hoang has joined PICNet as Medical Co-Lead, following the retirement of Dr. Judy Isaac-Renton. This medical leadership position is a shared position with Dr. Elizabeth Bryce to lead and deliver the strategic goals of PICNet.

Linda is the Program Head of the Public Health Advanced Bacteriology & Mycology for the  BC Public Health Microbiology & Reference Laboratory, which is part of the BC Centre for Disease Control. She is also a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, UBC.

Dr. Hoang received her Master’s and Medical Degrees from UBC and is FRCPC qualified in Medical Microbiology (UBC). She also obtained a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the London School of Hygiene and Epidemiology, UK. She enjoys teaching and is the BCCDC site-supervisor for the UBC Medical Microbiology Residency Training Program. 

Linda has been actively participating in PICNet projects for many years, especially as part of the Surveillance Steering Committee, and has led the implementation of the Surveillance Protocol for Carbapenemase Producing Organisms (CPO) in British Columbia. We hope you will join us in welcoming her into her new leadership position.



Dr. Linda Hoang


Dr. Elizabeth Bryce

Happy Retirement to Judy Isaac-Renton

We would also like to thank Dr. Judy Isaac-Renton for her ten years of contribution to PICNet. Judy was instrumental in bringing PICNet into existence. Her public health lens brought a balance to the network’s strategic direction, and her leadership helped navigate PICNet through many challenges. We thank her for her hard work and dedication during PICNet’s first decade, and wish her all the best for her retirement.

Dr. Judy Isaac-Renton


MERS-CoV Update: new outbreak in Saudi ArabiaAug272015

New cases Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been reported in Saudi Arabia. Four more deaths were announced, bringing the number of deaths in the past week to 17. The World Health Organization (WHO) says many of the recent cases are associated with an outbreak at a hospital in Riyadh.

Several other countries have also reported MERS-CoV cases in individuals who have travelled to the Middle East, including France, Italy, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). These individuals acquired the disease through limited local transmission among close contacts, including health care workers. The outbreak in South Korea, which began in May, was the largest outbreak of MERS-CoV outside the Middle East. It has now been brought under control, with no new cases reported since July 4, 2015.

The risk to Canadians is low. This virus does not spread easily from person to person, and the risk of exposure is primarily in the affected Middle Eastern countries.

The current understanding of MERS-CoV is that it has entered the human population from direct or indirect contact with infected camels or camel-related products (e.g. raw camel milk). In situations where it has appeared to have spread between people, those cases involved close contact with MERS-Cov infected individuals including family members, fellow patients and healthcare workers, indicating the importance of following strict infection control practices in health care settings.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a great deal of MERS information on their website; you can also read updates relevant to Canada on the Public Health Agency of Canada website.

click the map below for an enlarged view:


CDC article on Coordinated Approach to Reduce AROs in Healthcare FacilitiesAug052015

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published an article on the Estimated Effects of a Coordinated Approach for Action to Reduce Antibiotic-Resistant Infections in Health Care Facilities. The findings estimate that with effective nationwide action now, more than half a million antibiotic-resistant health care–associated infections could be prevented over 5 years. Read the full article here: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, August 4, 2015

Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae 16803_lores