Northern Health is asking people to look at other options before turning to the emergency room at University Hospital of Northern British Columbia.
The hospital has been running at as much as 25 per cent over capacity in recent weeks, Northern Health spokeswoman Eryn Collins said, putting added stress on nurses and doctors.
A big reason has been less-than desired effectiveness in this season's flu shot.
Meant to combat two strains, Dr. Andrew Gray, Northern Health public health officer for the Interior region, said it's been just 10-20 per cent effective against the A strain and 55 per cent effective against the B strain.
"It does provide some protection but not as much as we would normally see," Gray said.
He added both strains have been circulating at the same time whereas the B strain usually doesn't get going until later in the season.
It's translated into "more pressures on the hospital and just more impact overall at once as opposed to more spread out over the winter," Gray said.
But he said the vaccination is still beneficial.
"A 40-per-cent discount on your gas or groceries is still worthwhile," Gray said. "To reduce the risk by 40 per cent is still pretty good and there's no one silver bullet for preventing influenza. But vaccinations plus hand washing plus staying home if you do get sick, it all contributes."
Those unsure if their condition warrants a trip to the emergency room can call HealthLink BC (811), or visit www.HealthLinkBC.ca 24 hours a day, seven days per week for advice from nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call poison control at 1-800-567-8911.
The UHNBC emergency room remains open to people who experience a sudden or unusual change in their health, including breathing difficulties, severe bleeding or pain, broken bones, chest pain, suspected overdoses, and eye injuries.
For more information on getting a flu shot, check immunizebc.ca for clinic dates.