Influenza has killed 12 Albertans so far this season, including one in central Alberta.
During the 2018-19 influenza season, nine people died in central Alberta, with 30 deaths across the province.
As of Jan. 11, a total of 57 people in central Alberta have been hospitalized, up from 31 the previous week. In Alberta, 653 people have been hospitalized, most of them in Calgary and Edmonton.
Dr. Mohammed Mosli, medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services’ central zone, said there were 505 lab-confirmed cases of the flu in the region. Outbreaks have occurred, but so far, the flu season has not been more or less severe than other years.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has said more children are being hospitalized this flu season because of an early spike in a strain of influenza B. It also means Canadians are facing a “double dose” of the flu with both influenza A and B circulating.
In central Alberta, there have been 315 cases of influenza B, and 189 cases of influenza A.
Mosli said it’s a very fluid situation and the dominate strain can change.
“Whether we’ll have more younger children or adults this year than last year, it’s too early to comment really. The good news is that both A and B are in the flu vaccine,” Mosli said.
He said the vaccine contains two B strains and two A strains. Influenza B is a more stable virus that doesn’t change and the vaccine is usually very effective against influenza B.
He said younger and older people are more at risk of serious illness from influenza. Children and young adults are more at risk of catching the flu because they are more likely to be out hanging out with others and influenza can be contagious without being symptomatic.
Severely cold temperatures can also bring people together.
“When people stay indoors to hide away from the cold, they usually stay together. They come together as families or friends. That’s another reason why we recommend people get the flu vaccine.
“The best way to protect yourself and loved ones isn’t by not seeing other people, but by getting the flu shot to protect yourself and loved ones.”
He said the vaccine is safe, effective, and free of charge to all Albertans.
— With files from The Canadian Press