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Influenza hospitalizations continue to mount in Alberta




Hundreds of Albertans continue to be hospitalized with influenza, and this season’s influenza death toll doubled in the past week.

Data released by the province Thursday showed 289 more Albertans were hospitalized with influenza in the week ending Dec. 10, and 28 more were in ICU. There have been 1,413 hospitalizations and 140 people in ICU this flu season, which began at the end of August.

And 23 more deaths due to influenza have now been tallied, bringing the total to 45.

Lab-confirmed cases also climbed by 821, to 7,109. Influenza A (H3N2) continues to be the dominant strain.

Read more:

Alberta Health Services adds influenza, RSV to online assessment tool

The hospitalizations and deaths in the 2022-23 influenza season to date have met or surpassed recent historic totals. In 2018-19, there were 1,391 hospitalizations and 30 deaths. The 2019-20 influenza season saw 39 deaths and 1,534 hospitalizations.

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The 2017-18 season marked a high-water mark in the past decade for hospitalizations and deaths at 3,047 and 92, respectively.

On Wednesday, Canada’s chief public health officer said influenza continues to “trend well above expected levels for this time of year.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta health minister says current peak of influenza may have passed, bracing for more waves in new year'

Alberta health minister says current peak of influenza may have passed, bracing for more waves in new year

“Most worrisome is the increase in influenza-related hospitalizations,” Dr. Theresa Tam said.

In the past week, the youngest Albertans and older Albertans saw the most hospitalizations, but no age group was spared. For example, 35 children aged one to four were hospitalized in the past week and three went to ICU for influenza. Fifty-five Albertans in their 60s and 57 septuagenarians were hospitalized for influenza this week.

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The past week’s deaths were all of people older than 50, with six in their 60s, eight in their 70s and four in their 80s dying of influenza.

“Our health-care systems continue to be challenged by the additional burden of all respiratory viruses this time of year,” Tam said. “The impact, particularly on children’s hospitals, has already been overwhelming in many parts of the country.”

Read more:

Peak of influenza may have passed, but prep underway for more waves: Alberta health minister

More than 53,000 Albertans rolled up their sleeves for influenza vaccinations this week, bringing the total population coverage to 25.2 per cent. The number of doses administered in Alberta went down for the third week in a row.

The number of people vaccinated is currently below Alberta’s best influenza vaccination coverage in the past decade. In the 2014-15 and 2018-19 flu seasons, 31 per cent of Albertans got their flu shot.

On Tuesday, Alberta’s acting chief medical officer of health Dr. Mark Joffe shared his thoughts on a “very challenging respiratory virus season” on social media.

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“Data suggests we may have passed a peak in influenza, but it’s too early to say for sure. That said, it will remain a busy winter,” the CMOH wrote.

He advised people to stay home when sick, cover coughs and sneezes, and wash their hands.

“Choose to stay up to date with all your vaccinations and speak to a physician or other care provider if you have questions. Vaccines are available, safe and free,” Joffe wrote. “Getting vaccinations can mean the difference between a few days at home sick, weeks in a hospital or even worse.

“Avoid or limit time in crowded indoor spaces. Wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask can help reduce the risk of exposure.”

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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