Alberta Health Services says there has been a significant increase in the number of people hospitalized with influenza and officials are urging Albertans to get immunized.

Health officials say five people with lab-confirmed influenza have died; two in the Calgary zone and three in the Edmonton zone.

“Influenza is here in Alberta and we’re now seeing its tragic toll. One Albertan death is too many and this week we have the unfortunate responsibility of confirming five,” said Dr. Gerry Predy, AHS Senior Medical Officer of Health. “If that isn’t enough to encourage immunization, the upswing in hospitalizations is yet further evidence of the very real severity of influenza.”

Of the five deceased, four were not immunized and the fifth, a child, received one of the two doses of vaccine required for children less than nine years of age.

“Immunization saves lives. It’s readily available, safe and free of charge,” said Dr. Martin Lavoie, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, AH. “You may be healthy today but we want you to stay that way. Protect yourself and your loved ones: get immunized. Do not delay.”

“Whether you’re doing it for yourself, for your family, or for your community: it’s the right reason,” said Predy. “We thank you for getting immunized and arming yourself for the influenza battle.”

The province purchased over two millions doses of influenza vaccine and so far just over one million doses have been administered.

Influenza immunization is free to all Albertans, six months of age and older.

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