25 flu deaths in Calgary already exceeds last season's total

There have been 25 flu deaths in the Calgary zone so far this season, according to figures released by the province this week.

AHS says 955 people have been admitted to hospitals in the Calgary zone

New numbers show there have been 25 flu-related deaths in the Calgary zone so far in the 2017-18 season. (Toby Talbot/AP)

There have been 25 flu deaths in the Calgary zone so far this season, according to figures released by the province this week.

That compares to 19 deaths in Calgary for the entire previous flu season.

Dr.Eddy Lang, the head of emergency medicine in Calgary, said that while this year's flu season has been nasty, it hasn't been the worst one.

"Every year is a little bit different," Lang said in an interview on The Homestretch. "It has to do with the complex interaction between the virus and our immune systems. Sometimes it just gets out of control, leading to fluid buildup in the lungs, complications of bacterial pneumonia — and that's the cause of death in many of these cases."

Lang said that while some of the deaths were young people, most are not.

"We have seen some people in their 20s and 30s who were previously healthy who have been fatally affected by the flu," he said. 

"Those are the exceptions. Mostly, what we're seeing with this year's virus is that it's the frail elderly who are suffering the most severe lung complications, be it a pneumonia with bacterial infection or — as we mentioned before — the fluid buildup that occurs when the blood vessels become leaky from inflammation."

There have been 17 deaths in the Edmonton zone, three in the south, 16 in the central zone and eight in the north, for a total of 69 flu-linked deaths province-wide.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) says there have been 1,845 confirmed cases of influenza A and 1,109 cases of influenza B in Calgary this season, with 955 people admitted to hospital.

In Edmonton, there have been 1,371 cases of influenza A and 495 cases of influenza B, with 781 admitted to hospital.

More than 500,000 people have received flu shots in the Calgary area, and 1.2 million people across Alberta were immunized, AHS says.

Lang said that it's still worth it to get a flu shot this season.

"We can always see a surge in flu activity in March," he said. "Sometimes when the weather is bad, and people are staying indoors we can see little mini spikes in flu activity.

"It's still not too late. I would still recommend it."

With files from The Homestretch