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3 more flu-related deaths in Edmonton zone, Alberta confirmed cases double: AHS

Influenza numbers continue to rise in southern Alberta
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Health Services said the number of lab-confirmed influenza cases in the province continues to climb. Quinn Campbell has the latest.

Nine Albertans have died with lab-confirmed influenza, according to Alberta Health Services’ weekly report released Thursday.

That marks an increase of three in the Edmonton zone to six total between Dec. 14, 2019 and Jan. 4, 2020. The north, south and Calgary zones remain at one death in each zone.

The latest report, released on Jan. 9, includes data from Aug. 25, 2019, to Jan. 4, 2020.

READ MORE: Number of flu-related deaths in Alberta this season jumps to 6: AHS

The number of lab-confirmed cases of Influenza A more than doubled from Dec. 14, 2019 to Jan. 4, 2020 from 595 to 1,307. The lab-confirmed cases of Influenza B in Alberta increased at a higher rate in the same time period, from 733 to 1,691.

More cases of influenza B diagnosed, putting kids at risk
More cases of influenza B diagnosed, putting kids at risk

Confirmed influenza hospitalizations increased to 461 from 241 in the three-week period.

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“We had a bit of a late start to the flu season this year,” Dr. Jia Hu, Calgary zone medical officer of health with AHS, told Global News. “But clearly over the last few weeks of December and the first two weeks of January, we had a lot of flu.

“It has been a lot of flu B, which is a type of flu that actually tends to affect young children more and tends to hospitalize them.”

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Hu said this season’s results shows that the flu can come at any time and highlight the importance of getting a flu shot.

READ MORE: Why this year’s flu season could be particularly dangerous for kids

“You can think of [Influenza A and Influenza B] like species of the influenza virus.

“The vaccine that we have covers against two strains of A and two strains of B, so it should afford pretty good protection.”

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Hu noted it is unusual to see more Influenza B cases than Influenza A.

According to south zone lead medical officer of health Dr. Vivien Suttorp, getting sick with one of the flu viruses also doesn’t mean you’re safe from getting another strain.

“This year we have three different strains circulating of influenza, so the key message is: if you’ve had one influenza type and you’ve been ill with it, you can still get the others as well,” she said.

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Suttorp also said that reported deaths related to the flu aren’t always accurate, and there could be more victims.

“For individuals who have deceased due to influenza, they have to have deceased in a hospital and have a lab report confirming influenza,” she said. “So that does not include everybody who has had death due to, or [with] complications of influenza.”

To date, 1,287,397 Albertans have received a flu vaccine.

Where to go when the seasonal sniffles strike
Where to go when the seasonal sniffles strike

Hu said about 30 per cent of Albertans have received the flu shot this year and he’d like to see this season’s immunization numbers improve over last season’s.

“It astounds me that in spite of how much flu we have and how serious it is… less than a third of Albertans get the shot every year.”

READ MORE: 3 flu deaths in Alberta so far this season: AHS

Between August 2018 and March 2019, just more than 1.3 million Albertans received a vaccine, according to AHS. In the same reporting period, 30 people died with influenza in the province and there were 5,939 confirmed cases of Influenza A and 143 of Influenza B.

Flu shots are still available free of charge to all Albertans at pharmacies, public health clinics and some family doctors.

–with files from Emily Mertz, Danica Ferris