Alberta influenza numbers up but vaccine weeks away

Health officials in Alberta say the influenza bug arriving a little early this year has caused some people looking for the vaccine, even though it’s not available for two more weeks.

37 confirmed cases compared to ‘only a handful’ in the same period last year

According to Alberta Health Services there have been 37 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in the province between Sept. 1 and the beginning of October. In 11 of those cases, people were hospitalized. (Tony Talbot/AP)

Health officials in Alberta say the influenza bug arriving a little early this year has caused some people looking for the vaccine, even though it's not available just yet.

According to Alberta Health Services there have been 37 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in the province between Sept. 1 and the beginning of October. In 11 of those cases, people were hospitalized.

Dr. Judy MacDonald, a medical officer of health, says they'd only seen a handful of cases this time last year.

"So influenza is certainly on the horizon throughout Alberta," MacDonald told CBC News.

"Calgary has seen a little more activity than the other areas, but definitely influenza is on its way."

She says it's hard to know why the flu has come early this year, because the virus is unpredictable and changes every year.

"We just don't know exactly when it's going to show up. We know it will, but it's related to people travelling around the world, bringing things back and what opportunities are there within the community for it to spread further. So those things aren't easy to predict."

'We're almost fully booked'

Pharmacist Heather Walker says she's been fielding a lot of questions about this year's flu strain and she's booking appointments starting Oct. 24 when the flu shot becomes available.

"And we're almost fully booked the first day," Walker explained.

"There's a lot of interest from snowbirds who'd like to get it early."

On average about a quarter of Albertans get vaccinated every year. The shot is available at pharmacies, clinics and family doctors.

Every year 12,000 Canadians are hospitalized from influenza and 3,500 die from it, according to AHS.

With files from Colleen Underwood