| Posted: Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 04:45 pm
The peak of the flu season is likely behind us, say provincial health officials.
With the number of influenza cases expected to decline, the temporary flu care clinic opened by Alberta Health Services on Jan. 10 at the Woodcroft Public Health Centre in Edmonton, closed its doors Monday night.
The clinic was used for the assessment and treatment of patients with moderate influenza symptoms, redirecting them away from hospitals and emergency departments to reduce the risk of influenza transmission.
Over the course of the first 10 days, 266 Albertans from the Edmonton region were treated at the clinic.
As of Jan. 15, more than 2,200 cases of influenza were confirmed across the province, with more than 400 hospitalizations and 49 people currently in intensive care.
To date, 10 deaths from influenza have been confirmed. Two people from the Edmonton region have died, seven from the Calgary area and one in southern Alberta. They were between the ages of 18 and 64, some with prior health problems and others were young healthy adults.
Health officials urge that the number of deaths this year is comparable to years past.
"Of the several hundred hospitalizations that we've had, 90 per cent of those that were influenza-related were not immunized," explained Dr. Chris Sikora, senior medical officer with AHS for the Edmonton region.
More than 1,090,000 Albertans have been immunized this flu season, the second highest flu vaccination rate in Canada. Officials say it is unlikely the province will reopen flu immunization clinics this season.
The immunization clinic at the St. Albert Public Health Centre closed on Jan. 9. The province set aside vaccines for outbreak management purposes and as second doses for young children before mass immunization clinics and public health centres ran out.
Flu shots were also available at pharmacies and doctors' offices.
Sikora explained influenza season starts any time between October and April and once it starts it usually lasts six to eight weeks. The peak is usually in the middle.
"At this point we are still in the influenza season, it's going on amongst us right now. Protect yourself, keep yourself healthy."
Health officials have urged the public to make plans to be immunized early on next flu season when vaccines are available again in October.
"That's what I wish all of us would do. I was there on day one. We have multiple areas where people can get immunized (and) it's free. We're trying to reduce as many barriers as possible," said Sikora.
Health providers stress that the single most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of infection – not just during cold and flu season but all year long – is to wash your hands.