Ambulance agency sees rising trend of people with flu calling for help

Paramedics in Prince Albert are seeing high number of flu cases impact their 911 calls.

Flu numbers are up this year and doctors say it's because of the Influenza B-strain

As flu cases across the province are still on the rise in an above-average year, paramedics in the Prince Albert area are keeping busy hauling people with the flu to the hospital.

"We've seen more shortness of breath and more flu-related calls this winter than we have in winters past," said Lyle Karasiuk, director of public affairs with Parkland Ambulance.

As a reason for the increase in calls, he noted the province reports an exceptionally high number of flu cases this season. About 1,000 more people had the flu so far this season in Saskatchewan compared to last year.

Karasiuk said the flu is trickling down to people who are more likely to face serious issues due to having limited mobility or chronic conditions like asthma or respiratory congestion.

"They've tried something at home and it just doesn't seem to be getting any better and need to reach out to some healthcare professionals," he said.

Paramedics are not the only ones who can help those struggling with the flu. Karasiuk said people can dial the 811 health information helpline, contact family for transportation, or call their family physician for advice. His other advice is for people to cover their cough, drink plenty of fluids, and stay home from school or work if they're sick.
Dr. Denise Werker, deputy chief medical officer with the Government of Saskatchewan, says there's not much different about this year's flu season compared to last year. (Kirk Fraser/CBC News)

Doctors say Influenza B strain responsible for hike in flu cases

In Saskatchewan, there have been 2,422 confirmed cases of flu this season, with the strain Influenza B standing out as unusual.

This year there have been 896 cases of Influenza B, compared to only 19 at the same time last year. The increase has been happening throughout Canada as well.

"Why are we seeing so much Influenza B? I do not have an answer for that," said the province's Medical Health Officer Denise Werker.

She added that, at this point in the season, the number of A-strain cases are on the decline but can't confirm that the B-strain has reached its peak yet.

There have been 11 flu-related deaths this season.

Chelsea Laskowski