Alberta Health Services says the unusually high number of people showing up in Calgary and Edmonton emergency rooms with the flu and norovirus is causing capacity issues in hospitals. 

Officials say hospital occupancy at Calgary's and Edmonton’s major hospitals is above 100 per cent.

There have also been numerous illness outbreaks in continuing care facilities and on a few wards in hospitals in both cities.

AHS confirmed that nine elective surgeries were postponed at Calgary hospitals on Tuesday because health staff is overwhelmed with the seasonal illnesses.

News conferences were held in both cities on Wednesday morning so officials could share action plans underway to address the issues.

Health officials want to remind Albertas emergency departments are one of several options: family doctors, walk-in clinics, urgent care centres, Primary Care Networks, family care clinics or staying at home.

Staying at home reduces spread of illnesses

"Staying home when sick, getting plenty of rest, and maintaining fluid intake to prevent dehydration are not only sufficient self-care measures for many cases, they are measures that reduce the risk of spreading illness to others, and reduce the pressure on the health-care system," said Alberta Health Services in a release.

AHS says it is taking steps to ease this temporary pressure by opening temporary beds where possible, sending medically stable out-of-province patients back home, prioritizing placement for continuing care at hospitals most affected and providing additional Home Care resources so patients can be discharged.

"Emergency departments will never turn away those who need treatment," said Dr. William Dickout, medical director for the Edmonton area. "We are looking to Albertans to educate themselves on the options available for their care to ensure they get the care they need quickly, and also to help reduce the pressures on our EDs during this season."

In December, the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary saw a 20 per cent jump in its volume of patients in the ER due to an early flu season.

According to Health Canada, there were around 3,500 cases of influenza in the country as of Dec. 15. By the same time in 2011, there were only 182 cases.