Three more people died from the flu and the number hospitalized sharply increased over the past week in Alberta Health Services Central Zone.
As of Thursday, 11 flu-related deaths have been confirmed. That is the same number of people who died in last year’s entire flu season, with several months likely still to run in the 2017-18 season.
The number of people hospitalized in Central Zone over the past week has jumped to 212 from 126 in the week ending Jan. 25.
Province-wide, six more flu deaths were recorded over the past week, bringing the total number of flu-related deaths to 61. In the 2016-17 flu season, 64 Albertans died of influenza.
This season across Alberta, there have been 2,277 people admitted to hospital with lab-confirmed influenza.
Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, medical officer of health for Central Zone, said the worst appears to be over.
“Generally, things are beginning to improve compared to the first week of January and the last week of December.”’
“I think that was the peak.”
It is difficult to pinpoint why one year is worse than another.
“Every year is different. It depends on the virulence of the flu virus. The one this year seems to be a bit more virulent,” which means it is more able to cause disease.
“No two years influenza years are the same,” she said.
Likewise, how long flu season lasts varies year to year.
“Sometimes we see up to April and May. Sometimes, by April we don’t see anything.”
Just under 1.2 million Albertans have been vaccinated, including 107,577 in Central Zone.
Achebe said for those who have not been vaccinated yet it is still worthwhile. It takes about two weeks for the vaccination to kick in.
“If you get it now in two weeks you should get the protection at least.”
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.