Bruce Patrick is rallying back from sickness.

“Feels wonderful to be back out again,” said the Nanaimo man, who was playing at Beban Park’s tennis courts on Thursday. He was forced to step away from the tennis courts after norovirus symptoms started.

“It hit me very quickly,” said Patrick.

“But it was over in 24 hours.”

Patrick now suspects it was norovirus and bad as it was, he is glad it wasn’t the flu. The H1N1 virus is turning out to be a bad one this year, hitting younger people harder than in seasons past.

“Last year our average age was about 80,” said Island Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Hasselback.

“This year it’s about 60. It’s definitely a generally younger population.”

Hasselback says 175 people have been admitted to hospital with the flu so far on Vancouver Island, including children under five and people in that 60-year-old range. The elderly and people with compromised immune systems are still most at risk.

“Influenza tends to kick people pretty hard,” said Hasselback.

“And I often hear that it takes days, to a couple of weeks to really start getting back up to normal.”

This week Island Health is also dealing with norovirus outbreaks in the Cowichan District and Port Alberni’s Westcoast General hospitals. Officials are urging everyone to be on guard as the highly contagious bugs make their way around the community.

“Influenza and norovirus tend to happen at the same time each year and it tends to be this time of the year,” said Hasselback.

“Best protection against both, that immaculate personal hygiene through hand washing, over and over again and please don’t share the bugs when you do get them.”

Flu season is now approaching its peak and expected to run right into spring, so officials say being aware and practicing proper hand washing are key to keeping yourself out of its way.

Skye Ryan