Alberta Health Services is adding more holiday flu immunization clinics in the Edmonton area, while the number of flu cases in the city continues to rise.

AHS’ senior medical officer of health Dr. Gerry Predy said Tuesday that the number of lab-confirmed cases of influenza in Edmonton (as of Friday, December 27) had doubled to total of 256 cases – 236 of those are H1N1.

“The lab-confirmed cases are just the tip of the iceberg,” Dr. Predy said. “There’s lots more influenza out there, those tend to be the more serious ones.

“Normally, we would monitor influenza activity throughout the community through looking at school absentees, but of course, in the last two weeks we can’t do that.” Predy continued. “So we don’t have a really good measure of how much activity there is out in the community.”

In Alberta, Predy said 662 cases had been confirmed in the lab, with 621 of those confirmed to be H1N1.

Of those confirmed cases, 31 have required hospitalization – and have had an effect on some elective surgeries in local hospitals.

Dr. Predy said four elective cardiac surgeries had been cancelled because the perfusionist, who would work to support heart and lung function during surgery, had to be taken off surgery to work with flu patients. However, Predy said all of those surgeries had been completed.

In addition, AHS said a unit at the Stollery Children’s Hospital had been placed on isolation, because of three lab-confirmed flu cases – the ward was still operating, Dr. Predy said, it had only been closed to new admissions.

“What we’re seeing is not particularly unusual, but what happened at the Stollery is something that does happen from time to time,” Predy said.

Meanwhile, officials are attempting to help reduce the effect of the flu, and have opened holiday flu immunization clinics in Edmonton to give residents the chance to get the shot before school and work begin in the New Year.

Additional flu shot clinics are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

  • West Jasper Place Health Centre (9720 182 Street NW) on Tuesday, January 7 (12:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.)
  • Northgate Health Centre (9499 137 Avenue NW) Friday, January 3 (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), Tuesday, January 7 (12:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) and Friday, January 10 (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
  • Bonnie Doon Health Centre (8314 88 Avenue NW) on Friday, January 3 (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), and Friday, January 10 (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Albertans aged six-months and older can get the immunization at the drop-in clinics, anyone wishing to do so is asked to bring their Alberta Health Care card and wear a short-sleeved shirt.

The flu shot is meant to cover three influenza strains, and includes coverage for H1N1, Dr. Predy said flu shots should be done annually, as its effects don't carry over into following flu seasons.

Dr. Predy said the current flu outbreak was in its third week, and outbreaks normally last from four to six weeks – so the virus is expected to continue to circulate well into the New Year.

“We’ll have a better idea happens when the kids go back to school,” Dr. Predy said. “Typically what happens during an annual influenza outbreak, there tends to be further spreading.”