Categories: Health & Wellness

Flu outbreaks affect seniors

Flu season has taken hold of the province – hitting some regions and some populations harder than others.

According to Alberta Health Services there have been 1,768 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza so far this flu season. Just over 80 of those affected were in the Edmonton region.

The majority of cases have occurred in the Calgary Zone, which has seen 1,036 cases of lab-confirmed influenza, as well as 308 hospitalizations and five deaths.

Of the 13 Albertans who have died with lab-confirmed influenza between Aug. 28 and Dec. 31, 2016, two were from the Edmonton region.

Calgary has also seen a larger number of outbreaks. More than half of the 70 outbreaks this season have occurred in Calgary long-term care, acute and supportive living facilities.

As of Jan. 5, Edmonton had seen 15 outbreaks, all of which occurred in health facilities, including one currently being dealt with at the Citadel Care Centre in St. Albert. Four residents had been affected as of Thursday afternoon and the facility is following AHS protocol to stop the virus from spreading.

Dr. Joanna Oda, an Edmonton Zone medical officer of health says although the outbreak numbers have surpassed the total number of outbreaks for last season, that the flu season is progressing normally.

“These outbreaks are quite common at this time of the year,” she said.

But health authorities in B.C. warned the public earlier this year that this year’s dominant strain, H3N2, is more powerful than last year’s mild H1N1 strain and that it would potentially lead to more deaths than in 2015-16.

According to AHS all outbreaks this season have been related to the influenza A virus. Of the 70 outbreaks confirmed to-date, 69 are the influenza A H3N2 strain and one was confirmed as influenza A H1N1.

“Typically the more severe outcomes – severe illness, hospitalization, death – is more common with H3N2 in people over the age of 65,” said Oda.

Seniors are urged to get vaccinated with FluAd, a vaccine containing an adjuvant, an ingredient that helps stimulate a stronger immune reaction in older people, that protects against both strains of influenza A, as well as influenza B.

Michelle Ferguson: