MEDICINE HAT, AB — According to the numbers, influenza has not been hitting Alberta as hard this year as it did last year.
According to the most recent report from Alberta Health Services on February 21, the province has seen 5,305 cases of lab confirmed influenza-A, and 65 cases of lab-confirmed influenza-B.
That’s down compared to this time last year, where 7,778 cases were were reported.
“I think it’s a different year than last year, so we’re seeing different kinds of impacts,” said Dr. Lena Derie-Gillespie. “Less outbreaks, but some fairly significant impacts on particularly younger children as well.”
Gillespie says this year’s primary strain of influenza is H1N1, which tends to have more impact on younger people.
The South Zone, which includes Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, has not been hit as hard by the flu compared to other areas of the province. Of the 1,216 Albertans who have been hospitalized, only 56 are in the South Zone.
There have only been 28 deaths during the season, compared to 69 at this point last year.
Derie-Gillespie says this year’s vaccine has been 70 per cent effective, which has helped keep the numbers down.
“We got significant benefit from the influenza vaccine this year,” she said. “It just highlights the importance of getting it every year, because immunity wanes over time, and every year is a different year. It's impossible to predict that ahead of time, so that shot offered a lot of protection this year to people.”
Derie-Gillespie adds AHS is expecting to see a spike in cases from other strains of influenza before the season ends in April. She says Albertans can take precautions to prevent the spread of influenza, such as washing your hands and staying home if you’re sick.
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