The flu season shows no sign of slowing down with 478 confirmed cases in Central Alberta and 49 people ending up in hospital.
Across the province, 3,833 cases have been confirmed, 867 people admitted to hospital and 19 deaths, according to the latest statistics released Dec. 21.
Twelve of those deaths were in Alberta Health Services Calgary Zone. No deaths were reported in Central Zone. Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, medical officer of health with AHS Central Zone, said there were only four flu-related deaths this time last year in Alberta, 1,026 cases, and 259 people in hospital.
“The season started, first of all, very early,” Achebe said.
Cases of Influenza A, the more severe strain, and Influenza B have already been confirmed.
“Usually in other years, we see Influenza B towards the end of the flu season, generally in February. But this year we started seeing it earlier in November, even October in Calgary Zone, so this year is a bit different.”
She said Central Zone has seen at least 10 flu outbreaks, mostly Influenza A. An outbreak is when at least two people experience similar symptoms within 48 hours.
Influenza is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by a virus that is spread through the air. It is also spread by touching objects that have been coughed or sneezed on by someone with the flu.
A higher risk of complications from the flu is possible for children six to 59 months of age, pregnant women, people 65 years or older, and people with chronic health problems.
Flu vaccine is free to all Albertans six months of age and older and continues to be available through AHS, pharmacies and physicians.
Achebe said not everyone who gets the flu is asked whether they were immunized, but a few people who got the shot still got sick.
“We all know the flu shot is not 100 per cent, but it’s still the best protection out there that we know of so we still recommend the flu shot. It can also help in modifying the disease. It’s not as severe as it would have been if you didn’t get the shot.”
She said it could also help prevent Influenza B infection when it becomes more prevalent.
“We still have a few more months ahead in this season.”