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Flu’s Death Total Skyrocketing in Canadian West

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This is shaping up to be a rough winter. And not just in terms of the weather — according to a new report from one prairie province, more people have died this year from the flu than during the pandemic of 2009.

The province of Saskatchewan is reporting that more than 1,100 people have been diagnosed with influenza. Of that number, 16 people have died and another 57 have been hospitalized. Compare that to the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, when there were 15 deaths.

Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr. Denise Werker, says the rising death toll is related to the emergence of a new type of flu virus.

“What we are seeing is an incredible toll this year and that is most likely related to the H1N1 virus strain that is circulating this season,” Werker said.

Werker’s best advice for those worried about the flu: get vaccinated as soon as possible. If you’re having trouble finding clinics with the traditional shot, ask about the flu mist, a nasal vaccine that is becoming more and more popular.

“If you have missed your shot now is the time to get flu mist,” Werker said. “There is additional injectable vaccine available at the clinics for those who are not eligible to receive the flu mist.”

It’s worth noting that none of the 16 Saskatchewan residents who succumbed to the flu had been vaccinated. Furthermore, nearly all of the 57 people who have been hospitalized neglected to get the flu shot (or mist).

One fascinating trend noted by Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical officer: more men are being admitted to hospital with the flu, suggesting women may be more likely to get the shot.

“The interesting thing about the admissions and deaths is that men are two times more likely to have been admitted to intensive care and to die compared to women,” Werker said. “For some reason men seem to be more at risk for being admitted to hospital for severe illness and also to die.”

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