June 26th, 2019

Main influenza strain attacking younger people more so than seniors

By Gillian Slade on January 11, 2019.

Map of overall influenza activity by province and territory for the last week in December 2018.--IMAGE FROM PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY OF CANADA - FLUWATCH


This year’s main influenza strain is affecting young people more and giving seniors a bit of a break, says Alberta Health Services.

Influenza “A” H1N1 has been the predominant strain this season and it disproportionately affects younger people rather than seniors and people who are not immunized, said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, south zone medical officer of health AHS.

With seniors not affected as much, the south zone is fairing well compared to the rest of the province.

A strain of influenza that targets seniors would likely increase the numbers for the south zone.

“In the 2017/18 (last influenza season) in the south zone we had 24 confirmed influenza outbreaks, most of those in seniors’ continuing-care facilities,” said Suttorp. “This year we have zero.”

So far there have been a total of 4,767 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza “A” across the province, with 269 in the south zone.

Last year at this stage of the season there were 4,313 cases of influenza “A” in the province and 321 in the south zone.

There were more cases of influenza “B” in 2018, with 1,455 cases in the province and 104 in the south zone. This year the numbers are 30 for the province and one in the south zone.

Influenza has resulted in 20 deaths across the province this season but so far there have been none in the south zone.

“We have had, and still have some very ill people,” said Suttorp.

A total of 1,007 people have been hospitalized in Alberta and 45 in the south zone.

Of those who have had to be hospitalized in Alberta with influenza, 80 per cent had not been immunized this year, many being children, and the vaccine is a good match, said Suttorp.

Some people have been ill with a number in intensive care, said Suttorp. The influenza virus can create a lot of damage and secondary infections. Influenza affects the respiratory tract and that can result in pneumonia followed by complications.

“Even just the virus itself, this H1N1, can create a lot of damage,” said Suttorp.

The influenza season is by no means over, said Suttorp. Influenza “A” H1N1 is still circulating.

“We also often have a second wave in February/March,” said Suttorp.

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