British Columbia should expect more swine flu deaths as the second wave of the virus reaches its peak, the provincial health officer said Tuesday.

Dr. Perry Kendall said three more people died from the H1N1 virus in the past week. Of the three fatal cases, two suffered underlying health conditions and an autopsy is expected on the third.

Another 162 people were hospitalized, with 12 admitted to intensive care.

"We have seen a jump in severe cases," he told reporters.

More than 50 per cent of lab samples coming back are testing positive for Influenza A. All are testing positive for the H1N1 virus.

Kendall said B.C. is approaching the peak of the second wave of the virus.

"We should see it in a week or two. The sooner the better."

HealthLink BC, the toll-free telephone line set up by the province to address H1N1 questions, is receiving 4,000 calls daily.

The CDC said 20 per cent of doctor's office H1N1 cases are being handled by the phone service to keep potentially infected patients from infecting others.


Absentee rates of up to 40 per cent in the Kitimat school district have prompted the closure of all five schools in the northern region for the rest of the week.

Kendall said many of these cases may not be confirmed H1N1, but parents keeping their children at home for fear of them becoming sick.

"The school district has agreed to close schools to give everyone a break and hopefully break the chain of transmission."


The numbers released Tuesday come in the second week of a staged rollout of vaccinations, and among concerns the supply of vaccine will decline sharply next week.

"We are hoping to hear supply is ramping up in coming weeks," Kendall said. "The delay in vaccine isn't what anyone wanted to see."

By this time next week, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control estimates 800,000 British Columbians - about 20 per cent of the population -- will be vaccinated.

The province anticipates everyone in B.C. will be vaccinated by Christmas.

Kendall said the province would continue to vaccinate high-risk patients and examine the best way to protect pregnant women. B.C. is expecting a special batch of adjuvant-free vaccine for pregnant women to arrive next week.

Kendall predicts the health care system will be strained in coming weeks. Some hospitals have started seeing a higher rate of absenteeism, but no wards have been closed.

B.C. has recorded 15 H1N1 deaths since the outbreak began in April. Of 321 people hospitalized, 160 were admitted to intensive care.

"I know the numbers can be concerning but this is what we've been expecting," Kendall said.