Alberta health officials encourage immunization as severe influenza cases increase

EDMONTON – Health officials continue to encourage Albertans to get immunized, after an increase in the number of severe cases of influenza in the province.

As of Dec. 21, 128 cases of influenza have been confirmed in the Edmonton area, up from 65 just a week prior.

“More than 90 per cent of what we’re seeing is the H1N1 strain, which was the pandemic strain, but is now one of our seasonal strains,” said Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services (AHS).

And while Predy says the number of cases of the flu isn’t unexpected, the number of severe cases is.

“The number of people coming to emergency with influenza-like symptoms has increased, more than doubled,” he explained Saturday afternoon. “And as well, we’re seeing a lot of people being admitted to intensive care units, a lot of people having to be admitted to hospital because they are experiencing more severe illness.”

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Predy says two people have died from the illness in Alberta this season – one from Calgary and one from Edmonton. Additionally, over 100 others have been hospitalized with the flu in Edmonton alone.

“People just need to be aware that influenza is not like many of the other viruses. It’s not a cold and it can cause very severe illness in people of all ages,” Predy explained.

As a result, health officials are encouraging all Albertans to get immunized. AHS has reopened some of its immunization clinics over the holidays, despite initially saying they would be closed.

READ MORE: Some Edmonton flu clinics to remain partially open over holidays

The clinics are not open seven days a week, but vaccinations are also being offered at some pharmacies.

“Because of our long hours and our availability over the weekends, many pharmacists are specially trained to provide flu shots,” said Anil Goorachurn, a pharmacist at London Drugs.

While Goorachurn says he’s seen an increase in the number of people receiving flu shots this year compared to last, Perdy says there’s still “a long ways to go.”

“Most of the population still is not getting the message that they should be getting a flu shot every year.”

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Children under the age of nine are not able to receive the vaccine at pharmacies.

Albertans aged six months and older can drop-in to the following clinics, without appointments, during opening hours and receive the free immunization.

Bonnie Doon Health Centre, 8314 88 Avenue
Friday, January 3, 2014 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Northgate Health Centre, 9499 137 Avenue
Monday, December 30, 2013 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Friday, January 3, 2014 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

West Jasper Place Health Centre, 9720 182 Street
Monday, December 30, 2013 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Regular hours will resume on Jan. 6.

With files from Shannon Greer, Global News.

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