January 7, 2014 6:23 pm

Doctors baffled about why H1N1 targets young, healthy adults

CALGARY- News that most of the nine people in Alberta who’ve died from the flu were young, healthy adults has many concerned about who is at risk.

About 300 people have had to be hospitalized because of the virus, including around 40 who ended up in the ICU. Doctors say it’s not clear why H1N1 affects some people more than others.

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“When we get the infection and it gets into our upper airways,and in some people it goes into the lower airways and then into the lungs. For those people, they get a much more severe infection,” explains Dr. James Dickenson from the University of Calgary. “It’s only a very small proportion of the people who get influenza who get that, and we don’t know why those people do react to it.

“Sometimes it’s just people who were completely healthy and for whatever reason the virus attacks them more severely, and they get this immense reaction that just fills up their lungs with fluid and then they’re in big trouble.”

While the elderly are normally more susceptible to infections, that’s not the case with H1N1.

“An awful lot of seniors have been around long enough to have had several infections before, and that gives them some protection,” Dickenson says.

He adds that it’s extremely important that everyone get vaccinated.

“It’s not a perfect vaccine, it’s not 100 per cent effective, but hey, 70 to 80 per cent effective, that’s worthwhile.”

Despite concerns that the flu shot wasn’t available earlier this week, Alberta’s premier maintains that the distribution system is effective.

“There is no reason for anyone to be panicking,” said Alison Redford. “This is something where the vaccine can be available, it is being delivered appropriately and we thank everyone for wanting to be vaccinated.”

There are two clinics in Calgary that are offering the vaccine, along with selected pharmacies. Click here for more information.

-With files from Heather Yourex

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