Officials have confirmed the number of flu cases in Edmonton has doubled in recent weeks, and Alberta Health Services is making the vaccine available in free clinics over the holiday season.

As of December 21, AHS said there were 128 cases of the flu in the Edmonton area – and the majority of those cases have been lab-confirmed to be H1N1.

That strain of the flu has also been blamed for the deaths of two people, one in Edmonton and one in Calgary – and officials are concerned as many of the people coming down with serious flu cases are young, and otherwise healthy.

“We’re seeing quite a few people with severe illness, people having to be admitted to hospital, go on ventilators to help them breathe,” Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical officer of health said.

Dr. Predy also said it’s important for people to get the flu shot every year, as immunity wears out eventually.

“Although the same strains tend to circulate from year to year, the immunity from the vaccine can wear out within a year,” Dr. Predy said. “As well, each year the virus has the ability to change themselves slightly, so that makes it important to get them annually.”

“It’s going to boost your immunity,” Pharmacist Kamal Alhallak said Friday. “What they do is they do a screening for a couple of strains of viruses, and then the flu shots contain antibodies against three or four most prevalent strains.”

The rise, and the high number of cases confirmed in Edmonton and Calgary, where 194 flu cases had been confirmed, prompted officials to open a number of vaccine clinics over the holidays in both cities.

“We just want people to be aware of that, and ensure they take the appropriate precautions,” Dr. Predy said.

In Edmonton, two clinics were open Friday, at the Bonnie Doon Health Centre (8314 88 Avenue NW), and at the Northgate Health Centre (9499 137 Avenue NW), with the rest slated for the following week:

  • Monday, December 30 at Northgate and the West Jasper Place Health Centre (9720 182 Street NW)
  • Friday, January 3 at Bonnie Doon and Northgate

All of the clinics are open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – in addition, the flu shot is still available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

Officials said this flu season hasn’t reached its peak yet, that’s expected to come in the next few weeks.

With files from Nicole Weisberg and Sarah Richter