Cases of influenza B have almost doubled in Alberta, and tripled in central Alberta.
Weekly flu statistics from Alberta Health Services report 307 influenza B cases in Alberta, up from 186 last week.
Central Alberta had 35 cases, up from 12.
Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, medical officer for AHS’s central zone, said influenza B tends to show up in about February or March.
“We have seen more Bs, which is unusual, but it’s not an indication of severity,” Achebe said.
“Influenza is influenza, whether it’s A or B.”
The influenza vaccine has both A and B strains, she said.
So far, Alberta has recorded 307 confirmed influenza B cases and 361 influenza A cases.
She said there are fewer overall flu cases and no deaths compared to last season.
“But it might be that we’re having a late season, so it’s still too early to compare.”
By the end of the 2018-19 flu season, central Alberta had nine flu-related deaths and 160 people were hospitalized. A total of 29 cases of influenza B and 729 cases of influenza A were confirmed.
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.
About 1.1 million Albertans have received a flu shot this season, including more than 102,000 central Albertans.
Last season, about 116,000 central Albertans were vaccinated.
Achebe said so far this season, slightly more central Albertans have been immunized, and vaccines are still available at pharmacies, doctor’s offices and community health centres.
She said it’s too early to know how well the vaccine is working, but it can help reduce the chance of contracting the flu and passing on the virus to others.
When the holiday party seasons starts and people mingle, they spread the virus, which is why more people tend to get sick near Christmas and the new year. People should wash their hands frequently and stay home when ill, she said.