Alberta’s flu cases see significant jump

The government of Alberta says influenza cases have more than doubled this week since early November, with a total of 2,082 cases.

There are 355 people hospitalized, with 34 people in intensive care. Six people have also died, including a child between the ages of one and four years old.

Most of the flu cases come from Influenza A Virus at 2,073. There are also nine cases of Influenza B Virus.

To date, according to the government’s website, there are 98 people under the age of nine in hospital, and 10 people in the ICU.

In addition, the province says that 17.6 per cent of the province is currently vaccinated for influenza, with nearly 800,000 doses administered.

The elderly and the young are seemingly affected the most, as people between the ages of 60 and 89 are the highest population in hospital, paired with youth between the ages of one and nine.

People under the age of five or over the age of 70 have been the most susceptible to influenza during this flu season.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says the national flu test positivity rate nearly doubled from the last week of October to the first week of November.

It says the week of Oct. 30 to Nov. 5 saw a test positivity rate of 11.7 per cent, compared to 6.3 per cent the previous week.

The agency’s FluWatch report says Canada has now entered a flu epidemic, which is declared most years after the threshold of a five per cent positivity rate is surpassed.

But it says influenza levels are higher than would have been expected when compared to pre-pandemic years. According to the PHAC, COVID-19 restrictions drastically reduced the spread of the flu in 2020 and 2021.

The health-care system is dealing with a triple threat of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, and higher-than-normal levels of flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

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This comes as Alberta schools are seeing high rates of absenteeism due to the wave of illnesses like RSV, the flu, and COVID-19 sweeping across the province.

The Calgary Board of Education says it had an average student absentee rate across the district of nearly 12 per cent last week due to illness, and more than 15 of its 250 schools have had outbreaks.

Both the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary and the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton are also dealing with a crush of patients, some seriously ill.

Officials have said the Alberta Children’s Hospital emergency department has seen more than 300 visits a day recently, compared to between about 180 and 220 before the latest surge.

“We have had a very challenging several days,” said Margaret Fullerton, a senior operating officer with Alberta Children’s Hospital, on Tuesday.

Fullerton said the Calgary pediatric facility is also full, but healthcare workers are making it work.

Health officials in Calgary and Edmonton said teams are working closely with schools to deal with outbreaks

Premier Danielle Smith has said she would not impose and mask mandates, nor has Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. Alberta’s new Chief Medical Officer of Health Mark Joffe told Albertans that he recommends masking, but has not said anything regarding the absences in schools.

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If a school experiences higher than 10 per cent absenteeism, AHS is then notified and works with the school to provide a letter and information directly to families.

In the event AHS declares an outbreak, it will provide information to families with recommendations to assist the school in preventing further spread of illness.

-With files from Courtney Theriault, Joey Chini, and The Canadian Press

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