Flu still circulating in Central Alberta

Flu season in Red Deer peaked in January but there are still cases being reported regularly.

Flu season in Red Deer peaked in January but there are still cases being reported regularly.

Alberta Health Services updated its influenza statistics for the 2013-14 winter this week.

The stats show a total of 91,482 vaccinations in the Central Zone, which includes Red Deer and the surrounding area. There were 493 confirmed cases of influenza with 95 people hospitalized and two deaths associated with the seasonal flu.

The numbers do not include the Red Deer nurse who died of H5N1 in January.

But flu season isn’t over just yet, said Dr. Ifeoma Achebe. The AHS Central Zone medical officer of health said while the peak may be over, there are still cases being reported, at a slowly declining pace.

“Within the last week we’ve recorded 20 new cases in the Central Zone,” said Achebe. “That says a lot that the flu is still circulating in our community.”

She said people should continue to practise precautionary measures, including washing hands with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes into tissue paper or their arm or sleeve, and staying at home when you have influenza symptoms.

“We had the peak about two weeks ago,” said Achebe. “It’s gradually slowing down, but it is still very much around in our communities.”

She said the takeaway from this flu season is people need to get their vaccinations earlier.

“A few days after the clinics opened the attendance was really poor, people didn’t come out en masse to get immunized,” said Achebe. “Towards the end of the year and in early January, we started having increasing numbers of cases and the increase in severity affecting young people and that created anxious moments and people started wanting the vaccine.”

Alberta ran out of the influenza vaccine early in January. A total of 1,101,868 influenza vaccines were administered across the province.

Next winter, Achebe encourages people to come out earlier and get their vaccine.

This year’s flu season was different from others because there were cases where flu symptoms were more severe in the younger age groups, which Achebe said is contrary what the influenza virus has done in the past.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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