AHS confirms first South Zone death from influenza

By Charles Lefebvre
February 1, 2019 - 11:30am

MEDICINE HAT, AB — Alberta Health Services has confirmed the first death from lab-confirmed influenza in the South Zone this season.

According to the report released on Thursday, the death in the South Zone, which includes Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, brings the total number of deceased across Alberta to 28 as of January 26.

AHS did not provide any additional information on the death such as the persons age or location, citing privacy reasons.

“Generally speaking, when it comes to influenza, the extremes of life are the most vulnerable to influenza, so our very young and our very old, or if you have chronic conditions,” said Dr. Lizette Elumir, medical officer of health with the South Zone, over the phone from Lethbridge. “That’s what we generally see.”

The Calgary Zone and the Central Zone have both reported nine deaths this season, while Edmonton has reported seven and the North Zone has reported two.

A total of 1,151 people have been hospitalized as a result of influenza this season. Of those, 54 people were located in the South Zone.

Elumir says year-to-year comparisons of the influenza season are hard to make, due to different virus strains each year, but this year’s season appears to not be hitting Albertans as hard as other years. This year’s primary strain is H1N1.

“You see different populations affected,” she said. “This year, we’re not getting outbreaks in our seniors’ facilities, we’re seeing more young people hospitalized, it’s more of a younger population that are affected, and this year, our numbers are quite a bit lower than they were last year.”

More than 1.2 million flu vaccines have been administered this season. Elumir says preliminary data from this season shows this year’s vaccine has been 70 per cent effective, and she is also hoping people are continuing to take precautions to avoid spreading the illness.

“I’ve always said that our community has a lot of control over how the flu season goes, because it’s spread person to person,” she said. “When everyone does their part to try and prevent that transmission, by staying home, getting vaccinated, washing your hands, doing all of the things you’re supposed to be doing, it really makes the season less overwhelming.”

Influenza season typically ends in March, though Elumir notes the province will likely see a spike in the number of cases from the “B” strain of influenza towards the end of the season.

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