Seniors hit hardest by flu season: Alberta Health Services

Watch above: New numbers from AHS confirm Alberta’s flu season started a few weeks early and it’s hitting older people particularly hard. Su-Ling Goh reports.

EDMONTON — While it’s being called “fairly ordinary,” Alberta Health Services says the province’s influenza season has hit Alberta seniors particularly hard.

“It is hitting older people significantly harder than it did last year,” said Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. “Elderly Albertans have been impacted the most.

“The rate of lab-confirmed cases amongst those over the age of 80 is four times higher this season than it was last season.”

Talbot updated the province’s flu numbers on Thursday afternoon. So far this season, more than 1.17 million Albertans have received a flu vaccine, which is about 29 per cent of the population.

“That is a 31 per cent increase over the same time last year,” said Talbot. “That’s a significant increase and we commend Albertans for their diligence in getting their shots.”

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So far, 390 Albertans have been hospitalized with lab-confirmed influenza, Talbot said. Twenty-three Albertans have died. Talbot says the average age of those who have died was 87; last year it was 74.

“It really is hitting grandparents and elderly people harder.”

While this year’s vaccine is only partially protective against the dominant strain, H3N2, Talbot still urges people to get vaccinated.

“We have a partial match for what is circulating in the communities. That’s not uncommon,” he said. “With H3N2, we know from previous years, that a partial match is still better than not getting the vaccine at all.”

To help prevent the flu, AHS recommends coughing into your elbow, washing your hands thoroughly after using the washroom and before handling food, and staying home from work or school when you feel ill.

Talbot says this year’s flu season started two to three weeks earlier than last year and is close to reaching its peak.