Influenza is still a problem despite warmer temperatures.

Even with Spring just around the corner, we are still not out of the woods with the flu season.

Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Health Services, Dr. McDonald, says "we still have a little bit of influenza activity going around, so I would say it's not quite over yet."

According to Alberta Health Services statistics, influenza is responsible for more emergency department visits than strokes. During the 2017/2018 flu season, influenza was responsible for the death of 88 Albertans and hospitalized more than 1600 Albertans in 6 months. Of the 88 Alberta deaths, 30 of those cases were from Calgary and the surrounding areas.

Dr. McDonald says these statistics are only the cases they have confirmed from patients who sought treatment for the virus, and there's likely more out there.

"We don't capture all of the influenza related deaths, these are ones we are aware of. It is a concern and does demonstrate that influenza is a serious disease."

Canada wide, an average of 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths related to the flu occur each year. The respiratory disease caused by a virus that effects the throat and lungs is easily passed from one person to another, making immunizations that much more important.

"We do recommend every year you get another vaccine just because of the changes to the influenza virus, and for some people the effect of the vaccine doesn't last that full year." said Dr. McDonald

The virus changes slightly from year to year as various strains circulate through the world causing new strains to emerge and spread. In addition to the respiratory effects, influenza lower's the body's ability to fight other infections, and can lead to other bacterial infections, pneumonia and in some cases death.

Vaccination availability ended in March, with the exception of children who may need a second dose which is available until the end of April. To help prevent catching or spreading the virus, Dr. McDonald says hand washing can't be emphasized enough, along with covering your cough and staying home when sick. New vaccinations will be available in the fall of 2018 and are highly recommended by Alberta Health Services.


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