Alberta’s health minister says the current peak of flu in the province may be over.
The most recent provincial data shows that there are now 1,124 people in hospital with the flu. There are now 6,288 cases of flu recorded in the province this season, but the weekly charts also show that increases over the past two weeks have not been as dramatic as in mid-November.
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Health Minister Jason Copping said on Friday it was a challenging time, but predicted the province could turn a corner – for now.
“It appears now that we have reached a peak in terms of this current bout of influenza,” Copping said. “It can come back in the flu season. You might have multiple spikes, but if you look at the wastewater data and also in terms of the number of inpatients, it’s been going down for a few weeks now.”
Copping said there is a lag between what is seen in the hospitals and the amount of flu detected in wastewater.
“It takes time to see it show up in the hospital, so even though the numbers are reducing, they are still putting pressure on the hospitals. Our current assessment is that over the next few weeks we should see the pressure ease off,” he said.
Gosia Gasperowicz is a developmental biologist and a researcher at the University of Calgary. She is also a co-founder of Zero COVID Canada.
She points to previous years, when there were three peaks in the flu season.
“So just because we’re seeing a peak for the moment doesn’t mean it’s going to go down to zero or to small numbers,” Gasperowicz said.
“Adults get infected. Children still end up in the hospital in ICU and some may die. So if we introduce any protection now, it will reduce those numbers.”
Gasperowicz said there are many proven measures that can be taken to reduce the spread of influenza and COVID-19.
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“We must not let our guard down and we really must do everything we can to stop the spread. We have very simple tools. Masks and mask requirements are among the simplest and the cheapest. We used them before and they worked,” Gasperowicz said.
One BC pediatrician is warning people to take precautions as the holiday season approaches.
“We’re not at the end of this yet, so we expect there will likely be cases over the holiday season,” warns Dr. Pascal Lavoie, a professor at the University of British Columbia. “I think people should be careful to limit the spread of respiratory viruses by avoiding overcrowding.”
According to Alberta Health, 24% of Albertans have received a flu shot.
In light of that, the Alberta NDP is calling on Premier Danielle Smith to publicly endorse the flu shot, something the health minister has done.
“We’re urging everyone — if you haven’t gotten your flu shot, please go to your local pharmacy and get it done,” Copping said Friday.
“We’re continuing to build capacity in our system because we could very well be back in another bout of flu in the new year,” Copping said.
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