More people have fallen ill from the flu the season. (Contributed)

Two flu-related deaths in Central Alberta

Two Central Albertans with the flu have died this season out of the 31 deaths reported across Alberta as of last week.

Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services Central Zone, said there’s been a few more deaths in the zone this week.

“The majority of the deaths are in elderly, but also some in their 50s which was really surprising,” Achebe said on Friday.

She said this time last year there were 17 flu-related deaths in the province and none of them were in Central Zone.

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.

As of Jan. 6 AHS Central Zone had seen 947 lab-confirmed flu cases and 90 people admitted to hospital.

Across the province a total of 5,767 people have had confirmed flu and 1,570 admitted to hospital. Last year at this time there were 2,137 cases and 672 hospitalizations.

AHS has also been kept busy with flu outbreaks in facilities.

“We’ve had outbreaks in acute care hospitals as well as long-term care facilities and lodges. During the peak we were dealing with two or three outbreaks a day. We haven’t seen any in Red Deer hospital,” Achebe said.

She said hospital outbreaks are over, but they are still happening in supportive living facilities mostly in Red Deer, Innisfail and Rocky Mountain House.

During the entire flu season last year there were 23 outbreaks in Central Zone. So far this year there have been at least 21, she said.

Flu vaccine is free and still available to all Albertans six months of age and older and continues to be available through AHS, pharmacies and physicians.

The vaccine helps protect against both Influenza A and B and generally more people get sick from the B strain in the second half of the season. The vaccine is a better match to the current B strain, she said.

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