October 25th, 2020

Three strains of influenza circulating in region

By Kalinowski, Tim on January 10, 2020.

Dr. Vivien Suttorp, lead medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services South Zone, speaks with reporters Thursday at the Lethbridge Community Health Centre. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


With three potent influenza strains circulating in the region, Dr. Vivien Suttorp, lead medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services South Zone, is reminding the public free flu shots are still available through local pharmacies and family doctors.

“Even if you have had one influenza type, and have been ill with it, you can still get the others as well,” she explains. “So if you have not had your flu vaccine, we recommend you get the flu vaccine because you will still get protected from the others.”

Suttorp confirms so far this season in the South Zone there has been one clinically proven death from influenza, but stresses that there are likely several more unconfirmed deaths where post-mortem clinical testing for influenza was simply not done.

“Influenza is a bad illness, and the number of deaths we report weekly does not capture all deaths,” she says.

The three types of the flu virus circulating, Influenza B, Influenza A-H1N1 and Influenza A-H3N2, have all caused outbreaks this season at local medical or care facilities, confirms Suttorp.

She says symptoms of the virus are also often mistaken by the public.

“Influenza is a respiratory illness from the influenza virus,” she explains. “Influenza causes fevers, coughs, muscle aches and pains, exhaustion, headaches, etc., and can lead to serious complications. Stomach viruses, gastro-intestinal viruses such as the norovirus, cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea for usually 24 to 48 hours. This is not flu. Influenza, respiratory illness, does not typically cause vomiting or diarrhea.”

Suttorp advises those who suspect they may have the flu to stay home and take steps to prevent spreading the virus to other family members such as frequent hand-washing and using good cough etiquette such as coughing into sleeves.

On the subject of a slightly different type of outbreak in the region, Suttorp confirms pertussis, also known as whooping cough, seems to be finally declining in the region.

“For whooping cough we are still in the outbreak officially, but our numbers have significantly gone down – the rate of new confirmed cases,” she says. “This is excellent news.”

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