Alberta reports 1st flu death of 2016-17 season in Calgary

One person with the flu has died in the Calgary area, Alberta Health Services said Thursday.

It’s the first reported death of someone with lab-confirmed influenza in the 2016-17 flu season.

READ MORE: Calgary hit hard this flu season

An AHS spokesperson said they would not release the person’s gender and age due to privacy concerns.

The patient died on or before Nov. 26 after being hospitalized with the flu diagnosis, AHS said.

“Even healthy people can get influenza and have bad outcomes,” Dr. Judy MacDonald, medical health officer with Alberta Health Services, said. “It is important that people take influenza seriously. It’s not a walk in the park. It’s not just a sniffle or two.”

Calgary has been hit harder than Alberta’s capital city this year: there were 245 lab-confirmed cases of influenza A and three of influenza B in Calgary, compared to just 24 cases of influenza A and four of influenza B in Edmonton as of Nov. 26, AHS said Thursday.

Eighty people had been admitted to hospital with the flu in Calgary, compared to just 12 in Edmonton.

Watch below from Nov. 25: The flu is hitting Alberta hard this year and the number of people sick is much higher now than the same time last year. As Kim Smith explains, most of the confirmed cases are in Calgary.

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  • Near-fatal bout with H1N1 spurs Edmonton teacher to promote flu shot

    According to Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services, the virus hit the Calgary region first this year before spreading elsewhere.

    “When influenza hits the province, it starts in one part and then spreads from there,” Predy said in a past interview.

    READ MORE: Flu arriving ‘a little early’ in Calgary this year, says AHS

    Last year, 62 people in Alberta died after contracting the flu.

    MacDonald said some people are at a higher risk of complications from influenza.

    “Young children, especially those under two years of age, elderly individuals 65 and older, people that have heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, pregnant women… Those are all of our higher risk groups,” she said.

    “If they get it, they may be more likely to be hospitalized and have severe outcomes.”

    The massive spike in Calgary means pharmacists are fielding more questions about the vaccine.

    One of the most common questions, according to pharmacist Kaylyn Bassett, is whether a person can get sick from the flu vaccine.

    “What people have told me is, ‘Well, you know a week later after getting the flu shot, I got the flu.’ That is a total coincidence,” Bassett said.

    “Keep in mind that it can take about two weeks for the flu shot to actually become effective. So make sure you get it early.”

    With files from Global’s Kim Smith

    Watch below: Alberta has recorded its first flu-related death this flu season. The victim was a person in Calgary. But more Albertans are getting their flu shots. As Su-Ling Goh explains, some say convenience may be playing a role in that difference.

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