By Jamie Rieger
Despite 1.2 million Albertans getting their flu vaccinations this season (as of Feb. 14), the 2014-15 flu season has been one of the worst seen in the province in years.
According to an Alberta Health Services weekly influenza season report released on Feb. 18, there has been 78 flu-related deaths, with 10 of them coming from the South Zone. In a typical flu season, the province will encounter between 30 and 40 flu-related deaths.
The vaccination for the 2014-15 flu season was designed to protect against H3N2, Influenza A strain H1N1, and Influenza B sub-type, which is still affecting people in Alberta. However, since the data was collected for the 2014-15 flu season, the H3N2 flu mutated, rendering the vaccination for that strain ineffective.
“Each year, the World Health Organization provides recommendations on which strains to include in the influenza vaccine based on what they anticipate will be provided worldwide,” Alberta Health chief medical officer, Dr. James Talbot said in a video clip released in late January. “This year, there has been a significant shift from what we expected to see and what is actually circulating. Usually, the vaccine provides a much higher rate of effectiveness and has not done so this year because the virus mutated since the data was collected.”
Last year, the Influenza A strain H1N1 impacted younger people, while the H3N2 strain this flu season is hitting the elderly the hardest.
“Elderly Albertans have been impacted the most, which often happens with the H3 strain of the virus,” said Talbot.
The less dominant Influenza B strain often surfaces late in the flu season and is still making its rounds through the province. According to the report, there have been 312 labratory-confirmed cases of Influenza B in the province, with only two in the South Zone.