Sask. flu numbers near 2009 pandemic

Alberta tops Prairies for H1N1 | Manitoba reports
only 45 cases and no deaths as of Jan. 9

Alberta and Saskatchewan continue to be hot spots for seasonal influenza as both provinces reported more confirmed cases and related deaths last week.

Saskatchewan had recorded 12 deaths associated with influenza as of Jan. 17, while Alberta reported 10 as of Jan. 15.

Alberta has far more confirmed cases, at 2,200, than Saskatchewan’s 797, but each had 49 people in intensive care units plus hundreds of others hospitalized.

Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical health officer, said she is surprised with the province’s high numbers, which are nearing what was recorded during the 2009 pandemic. Fifteen people died that year.

“We are experiencing something different in Saskatchewan,” she told re-porters. “The good news is that because H1N1 has circulated previously, we know there is some immunity.”

Werker expected 100,000 doses of nasal mist vaccine to arrive from the United States Jan. 20 and said they might be made more widely available than just the target populations. 
It would depend on whether all the doses survived the trip at the correct temperature and were still usable, she added.

H1N1 is the predominant strain of the seasonal flu in all provinces this year.

Manitoba confirmed 45 cases and no deaths as of Jan. 9.

Werker said Saskatchewan may be seeing more cases because H1N1 began circulating during the holiday season when people were mixing at gatherings and parties.

She said most of the people in ICU have underlying health conditions, ranging in age from younger than five to 86 with an average age of 45. The average age of those who died is 60.

“There are some people in ICU currently who are seriously ill and we can anticipate having more deaths in the coming weeks,” Werker said.

However, she said there is some indication that the rate of infection might be nearing its peak because laboratory confirmed positives are slowing. More information was expected this week after deadlines for this issue.

Europeans are coping with H3N2 this year, which was the predominant strain in Canada last year.

A fatal case of H5N1 avian influenza that was recorded in Alberta Jan. 8 is considered rare. The person had travelled to China, was hospitalized in Canada Jan. 1 and later died. The Public Health Agency of Canada said the patient’s close contacts are showing no signs of infection.

H5N1 is not easily transmitted from person to person.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan issued a warning last week to make sure people are immunized for measles. Werker said two cases have been reported this year.

An infant on a flight from Manila to Vancouver and then to Calgary and Regina has been diagnosed and was infectious during the flights between Jan. 2 and Jan. 7. The infant is recovering.

Werker said the Philippines, the Netherlands and Brazil are all experiencing measles outbreaks. Travel to and from those countries could present a risk for those who aren’t vaccinated.

Measles is highly infectious and can lead to brain inflammation, disability and death, she said. Two doses of vaccine are required, and children in Sask-atchewan are usually offered the vaccination at 12 and 18 months.

  • H1N1 protection has been included in the seasonal flu vaccine since the 2009 pandemic.
  • A pandemic flu is one that is new and occurs worldwide.
  • Younger people and those with health conditions are more susceptible to pandemic influenzas because they don’t have immunity.
  • This season’s flu is considered an outbreak in which H1N1 is the predominant strain. Last year, H3N2 was predominant.
  • Vaccines are available to children under five, pregnant women and women who are four weeks postpartum, as well as people with severely compromised immune systems such as those undergoing cancer treatment or who have recently had a transplant.
  • Vaccines take up to two weeks to achieve protection.
  • People should take precautions to prevent influenza, including washing their hands thoroughly, containing coughs and sneezes in a tissue or the crook of the elbow, avoiding crowds and staying home when feeling ill.
  • Symptoms of influenza include fever, headache, extreme fatigue and weakness. Chest discomfort and coughing are usually present, as is a sore throat.
  • More information about influenza can be found on each provincial government’s website and the Public Health Agency of Canada website.

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  1. Pandemic? lol

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