A total of 615 people have been hospitalized in Alberta from H1N1 influenza as of Tuesday, including 76 Central Albertans.
Since Friday, 21 people had been hospitalized in Central Alberta.
Four more H1N1 deaths were confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the total to 29 in Alberta.
Dr. André Corriveau, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said the current impact of the flu is within the range of what was expected and hospitals are coping with the demand.
“Typically, the second wave would last between 10 to 12 weeks and we’re near the fifth week so we’re near the plateau, but it’s hard to predict how things are going to unfold,” Corriveau said at a news conference in Edmonton on Tuesday.
At Red Deer Regional Hospital on Monday, 31 people went to the emergency department with flu-like symptoms.
“This virus, H1N1, is particular not virulent. It’s causing a similar type of illness to an average flu. The big difference this year is we’re all susceptible to it. It’s a pandemic strand. Nobody, except for some of the seniors, have any prior immunity to it. It’s the sheer volume.”
Starting Thursday, Alberta Health Services will open up the vaccination program to more people at risk of complications from H1N1.
On Thursday people ages 55 to 64 as of Nov. 1 and those ages 10 to 17 with chronic conditions will be eligible for the vaccine. On Friday people aged 45 to 54 with chronic conditions will be eligible.
An estimated 250,000 people aged 45 to 64 will be eligible, along with about 60,000 children under 17.
“Everyone in these groups don’t have to come all at once. We’ve made as careful as possible an assessment of the vaccine we have and the size of those populations.” Corriveau said high- risk groups will continue to be the focus of the vaccination campaign for the next few weeks as Alberta Health Services works to immunize all Albertans.
“More than half the population will still be vulnerable to the third wave if we don’t continue to immunize so we’re going to keep pushing to immunize as many as possible so we don’t get a third wave or if we do get one, it’s a small as possible.”
Previously announced risk groups will continue to be eligible for the vaccine.
Chronic conditions for the two new eligible groups include diabetes, obesity (BMI over 30), cancer, chronic kidney disease, asthma requiring medication, other chronic lung conditions, congenital heart abnormality, neurological disorders, Down syndrome and other developmental delays, congenital or acquired immune deficiency taking medications that suppress the immune system, any disorder requiring aspirin treatment, anemia or hemoglobinopathy, and chronic liver disease.
For more details on eligible conditions or the location and dates of clinics go online at www.albertahealthservices.ca