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3 flu deaths in Alberta so far this season: AHS

Alberta sees spike in flu cases, including 3 deaths
WATCH: Alberta Health Services says there have been three deaths in the province from influenza this flu season. As Gil Tucker reports, AHS also says there’s been a spike in flu cases.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) says the province had recorded its first flu-related deaths of the season.

AHS released its latest report on the province’s 2019-20 influenza statistics on Thursday. The data showed one flu-related death in the Calgary zone, one in Edmonton and one in the north zone.

AHS doesn’t provide any details on the deaths (other than where they occurred) due to privacy concerns.

READ MORE: Alberta prepares for flu season despite delays in vaccine shipments

So far this season, there have been over 400 lab-confirmed cases of influenza A, over 450 lab-confirmed cases of influenza B, and 181 Albertans admitted to hospital with lab-confirmed influenza.

“We know that every year, 3,000 or more Canadians die of flu [and] we know every year, thousands of Albertans are hospitalized,” said Dr. Jia Hu, AHS Medical Officer of Health for the Calgary Zone.

“It’s remarkable to me that even though we know every year people die of the flu, that people still don’t get their flu shot. So when we hear about these deaths, it really is a call to action.”

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Hu said the flu vaccine has been quite good at preventing the spread of the influenza B virus, proven to be about 70 per cent effective during the 2018-19 flu season.

“The thing about flu B is, it does tend to affect children more,” Hu said. “It can cause very serious illness, including hospitalization and death in children.”

Hu said it’s extremely important that people get flu shots to protect themselves and their loved ones.

If people do come down with the flu, Hu advised staying home to prevent the spread of the virus, as well as taking other steps to protect yourself and others during flu season.

“It’s important to wash your hands regularly,” Hu said. “If you’re going to cough, don’t cough on other people — cough into your arm or into your elbow.”

Over one-million Albertans have received flu shots, according to AHS.

READ MORE: More than 700,000 Albertans immunized for flu this season

Alberta clinics and pharmacies offer a four-strain influenza vaccine, which is produced by two manufacturers, to Albertans as young as six months.

AHS said there were 7,698 confirmed cases of influenza in Alberta last year, resulting in 52 deaths. Those numbers were lower than in 2017-18 when there were 9,609 cases and 92 deaths.

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With files from Adam MacVicar