LETHBRIDGE – More people in the southern health zone are being immunized against this year's flu strains, and this could be part of what causes this year's relatively low number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
In the Southern Health Zone, nearly 95,000 people have been vaccinated with this flu season, compared to just over 92,000 in 2017/18. Year and around 88,000 from 2015/16
Health Medical Officer Dr. Vivian Suttorp says the prevalent influenza strain is the A-H1N1 influenza virus, which is very similar to the one causing 428 deaths in Canada and over 33,000 hospitalizations in 2009/2010.
According to the latest AHS website numbers in the southern area, there has been only one influenza-related death, 54 hospitalizations, 302 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A and 2 flu.
Calgary has so far experienced 9 deaths, Edmonton 7, Central Health Zone 9 and Northern Zone 2.
There have also been nearly 2,000 hospitalization infections and nearly 500 hospitalizations in Calgary, 629 infections and 145 hospitalizations in the Central Area, nearly 1,000 infections and 300 hospitalizations in Edmonton and over 1,100 infections and over 170 hospitalizations in the northern area.
Suttorp says that one of the most interesting things this year is that there have been no outbreaks in continued care facilities.
"So, any senior object or our hospital talking about the number of immigrants in the elderly is that this influenza A effect affects older people, but not as much as it does for younger individuals.
"If we see a lot of numbers in previous years, if we have some kind of outbreaks. So if we have an outbreak in an older institution, it is often – even if you put in a lot of infection control. they are in a shared environment. We haven't had any outbreaks and we have very good immunization rates for our seniors and the vaccine is very effective, we haven't seen those outbreaks. "
She adds that 80% of people hospitalized throughout the province are not vaccinated. Most of them were also under the age of 65, and many also have no immunity against H1N1.
"We see a more serious disease in young people, where our immunization rates are the lowest," explains Suttorp.
This year's vaccine is more effective than 70 percent. Compared to 2017/18 and 2013, when the vaccines were not so good.
So why is this year's vaccine as effective as it has been lately?
"Every year in the World Health Organization (WHO) projects, looking at all the surveillance data that includes the Northern Hemisphere vaccine and the southern hemisphere vaccine. When it comes to the A-H3N2 flu that prevails last year and the previous year, the virus is changing faster and so even 6 months after the flu season, this virus has already changed to make the vaccine less effective than H1N1.
So it means that those who received the H1N1 flu shot in 2009 still have immunity from this year's H1N1 virus because it is similar.
However, Suttorp warns that boosters are needed because there are other strains that are also included in this year's vaccine, including influenza B, which may also become more common.
"When we have the peak of influenza A, for example in early January, we are not atypical that in one of the strains of influenza B we have a" second wave "of another flu strain.