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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

What’s Behind Alberta’s Rise in Flu Numbers | Nation World News

If you thought May was too late for flu season, think again.

Data from the Alberta Health Service shows influenza cases have risen across the province in recent weeks, with Calgary alone reporting more than 200 cases.

And according to Dr. Eddie Lang, chief of the clinical department for emergency medicine for the Calgary zone with the AHS, those numbers could be the tip of the iceberg.

“There are many more people out there who probably have the flu,” Lang said.

“They haven’t tested for it yet.”

Land said that given the prevalence of the COVID virus now in the province, health professionals conducting a COVID test were surprised to see a positive result for influenza.

He said it is unusual to see so many influenza cases at this time of year, but not necessarily surprising, now that travel has increased and people are in close contact with each other.

“It’s almost unbelievable that the last two winters have essentially gone without flu season.”

Influenza Cases
The AHS has reported an increase in flu cases in recent weeks. (Rob Easton/CBC)

Another possible reason for the recent spike in flu numbers is that not as many people were vaccinated against the virus this season, said Craig Jane, an associate professor of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary.

“We have to keep in mind that at least early in the flu season … vaccines in Alberta were well below our normal rate of vaccinations,” Jane said.

“So if we have a lower level of protection, it’s probably not surprising that the flu season is getting a little longer than usual.”

Jane said that amid the need for multiple COVID-19 vaccine boosters, people are likely to feel the effects of vaccination fatigue.

“I think what we’re seeing is really the effects of a few years with little or no flu that we might just let our guard down a little bit.”

Lang said that although this year’s bug isn’t particularly hard to beat, it’s still something people should be aware of, especially when the infection will cause symptoms somewhat similar to that of COVID. Jane said it’s important for Albertans to know that the flu is still a serious concern for some people.

“Prior to the pandemic, influenza or the flu was virtually the leading cause of death from any infectious disease in Canada,” Jane said.

“It’s something we’ve gotten used to. But it underscores that it still has the potential to cause serious health effects.”

Jane and Lang both said they expect influenza numbers to drop in the coming weeks as people start spending more time outside.

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