It’s flu season again, and Alberta has already encountered a lot of influenza activity. As of last Wednesday, Alberta Health confirmed more than 1,300 cases of influenza in the province.
The flu is a virus that can spread quickly throughout the population.
It can be difficult to distinguish from the cold, as they both have similar symptoms, but the flu hits its victims harder than the cold. Symptoms of the flu include body aches, stuffy nose, fever, and cough. Complications such as pneumonia can arise, and the flu may aggravate underlying chronic conditions in the patient.
The number of such documented cases of the flu in Alberta this year is slightly ahead of last year’s numbers. There have been 1,349 documented cases so far, compared to 1,346 last year.
In the Central Zone (which includes Stettler), there have been 225 documented cases.
Dr. Digby Horne, the zone medical officer of health for the Central Zone, said that there has recently been a surge in cases, and the number of cases last week surpasses the number of cases in the same week last year.
“We’re headed for as severe or worse a season as we had last year,” said Horne.
However, in terms of severity, the outlook this year is much more positive.
At this time last year, there were 37 deaths and 742 hospitalizations because of the flu in Alberta. This year, there have only been eight deaths and 363 hospitalizations.
However, although the numbers look bad, William E. Hay principal Norbert Baharally says that the Stettler high school hasn’t experienced a significant problem with students missing school because of the flu. Last week, only one student was reported absent because of the flu, although as of Monday, five students were reported absent.
Those who get the flu should stay home to minimize the risk of infecting other people and remember to stay hydrated.
Flu victims should also continue to watch for signs and symptoms that the flu is getting worse, such as shortness of breath.
The flu virus changes a little every year, which is why yearly immunization is required.
There are several strains of the flu, such as H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (avian flu). So far in Alberta, one person has died from avian flu, though this is unusual. She is the first person in North America to die from the H5N1 virus.
“Further cases are not anticipated because of its low transmissibility,” said Horne.
However, most of the documented flu cases in Alberta (1,300) have been from the H1N1 virus, and the current flu vaccine includes immunization against H1N1.
The most effective way to prevent the flu this season is getting vaccinated.
Clinics open in October, but those thinking of getting the flu shot shouldn’t procrastinate.
“Now we find ourselves in a situation where the vaccine is almost used up,” said Horne. Most clinics in the Central Zone will provide the vaccine by appointment.
Other methods of trying to prevent the flu include washing hands and coughing into sleeves, rather than into hands.