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‘It’s starting to ramp up’: More Alberta flu deaths and hospitalizations prompt immunization reminder

A file photo of a patient getting a flu vaccine. File / Global News

EDMONTON – New data from Alberta Health Services shows the province is well into the flu season and that the H1N1 strain is responsible for the majority of flu-related deaths.

Figures released Thursday show a jump in deaths, hospitalizations as well as lab-confirmed cases from two weeks ago, when AHS urged residents to get immunized amidst news Alberta was in the early stages of “an influenza outbreak.”

READ MORE: Will this year’s flu shot work better than last year’s flop?

There have now been seven influenza-related deaths in the province; there were five two weeks ago. The two new deaths were in Edmonton. Both people were between the ages of 18 and 64 and both were not immunized.

All five of the deaths in Edmonton were from the H1N1 strain. The H3N2 strain is responsible for the two deaths in Calgary.

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The latest flu numbers from AHS as of January 28, 2016.

“It’s starting to ramp up as we see every year and in the last couple of weeks it has increased,” said Dr. Richard Musto, the lead medical officer of health for AHS – Calgary Zone.

“We’re seeing more cases in the emergency department. We’re stressed all the time with the volume of work we have to do [in the emergency department] and this just adds to it.”

Musto adds that H1N1 is the predominant strain of the flu this year across the country.

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The latest flu numbers from AHS as of January 28, 2016.

The number of hospitalizations has also jumped – from 84 hospitalizations two weeks ago to 165 hospitalizations.

The number of lab-confirmed cases has more than doubled – there were 283 lab-confirmed cases reported as of Jan. 14, that number stands at 635 as of Jan. 28.

The latest flu numbers from AHS as of January 28, 2016.

Musto said he expects flu activity to be on the upswing for approximately two more weeks then start to taper off.

“We’ll see cases right through to the spring as we always do,” he said.

Health officials say the flu is a serious illness that can be prevented through vaccination and are urging Albertans to get immunized.

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Musto said the effectiveness of the vaccine is “phenomenal.”

“The strains we’ve got now are contained in the vaccine. Absolutely there’s no rationale for not going and getting the vaccine. It’s the simplest protection against it for yourself and for people around you,” he said.

Click here to find out where you can get your flu shot.

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