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That number pales in comparison to the previous year’s flu season, when 2,998 people had tested positive for influenza by Jan. 4, 2020, with 461 hospitalizations and nine deaths. By the end of the season, 39 Albertans had died of the flu.
Dickinson hypothesized measures around COVID-19 were to thank for keeping the flu out of Alberta.
“We’ve really reduced opportunities for people to bring influenza into the province, and into the country, because of reduced travel,” he said. “And secondly, all of the precautions against COVID are precautions against any respiratory virus. So what we’re doing to stop COVID stops flu as well.”
Alberta’s influenza surveillance program works by testing a sample of people who present with flu-like symptoms. These samples are typically taken by physicians, but this year, five sites which swab for COVID-19 are also taking samples for influenza.
“The viral testing makes quite sure there isn’t anything else, and in the testing so far, we’re just not seeing anything else,” Dickinson said.
The most recent flu season update from AHS also marks a milestone for vaccinations.
In total, 1,476,702 doses of flu vaccine have now been administered in Alberta, meaning more than a third of the province’s population has been immunized.
The number sets a new record in inoculation uptake, passing the previous high set in the 2019–20 season when 33 per cent of Albertans also received their vaccines.
AHS cautioned flu seasons should not be directly compared until they have concluded, as influenza is known to hit at different times of the year.