H1N1 hits home

An elderly Central Alberta woman was the sixth Albertan to die this year from the H1N1 virus and the only Central Albertan so far.

An elderly Central Alberta woman was the sixth Albertan to die this year from the H1N1 virus and the only Central Albertan so far.

Alberta Health Services is not releasing any more information about her, only that she died about a week ago and the virus contributed to her death.

As of Aug. 7, Alberta has had 1,631 cases of H1N1 and 65 of them were in Central Alberta.

Dr. Martin Lavoie, central zone medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services, said the pandemic continues but appears to be slowing down.

“Actually most cases have been very mild, even compared to a regular influenza season,” Lavoie said on Monday.

“Either they have very, very mild symptoms that they don’t even know they have influenza or they have a mild influenza and they don’t need to seek medical attention as they would in a regular season.”

So far in Canada, 60 people have died since April, and 82 per cent of them had chronic medical conditions.

“It will probably come back in the fall in the form of a second wave. Ideally, we’d be able to immunize people before the second wave and prevent it from happening.”

The province is buying enough vaccine to immunize all Albertans against H1N1, in addition to providing the regular influenza vaccine.

Lavoie said H1N1 immunization will require two doses to boost people’s immune system because it’s a completely new strain. The second injection would be given three to four weeks after the initial shot.

The stronger than usual vaccine is currently undergoing some trials and the same kind of process as other vaccines to ensure it is safe.

Lavoie said it will be interesting to see if people will make the effort to follow through with both doses, especially since it’s been such a mild flu for most.

As of Aug. 1 in Canada, 1,315 H1N1 cases required hospitalization and 227 went into intensive care which is still a fairly small number considering the virus has been circulating for a more than a few months, he said.

During a regular flu season, which lasts about six months, an average of 4,000 people die.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic but it’s mild and there are a number of things we can do to reduce the spread which are known to be effective.”

Measures include hand washing, coughing into your elbow, sleeve, or tissue, using hand sanitizers, and isolating yourself when your sick.

For more information call HEALTHLink Alberta at 1-866-408-5465.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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