About influenza

Influenza – commonly referred to as the flu – is a respiratory disease caused by a virus that affects the nose, throat and lungs. Influenza is contagious and easily passed from person to person.

Influenza lowers the body’s ability to fight other infections. It can lead to bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, and even death especially in the elderly, children (6 to 59 months), pregnant women, indigenous people, and people with chronic medical conditions.

Seasonal influenza is the annual influenza that affects people in Canada during the winter, typically between November and April.

  • You can get influenza at any time, even in summer, but it is most common in the colder months

One of the best ways to prevent seasonal influenza is by getting the influenza vaccine each year. This is because the influenza virus changes each year. You should also wash your hands often.

Various strains of the influenza virus circulate throughout the world each year and new strains can emerge and spread.

Most healthy people are able to recover from influenza without severe complications.

Antibiotics do not work against the influenza virus or any other virus. Antiviral medications may be used for treatment or prevention of influenza.

Influenza immunization program

Beginning in October of each year, Albertans 6 months of age and older are able to receive influenza vaccine, free of charge, at public health clinics and doctor’s offices. Pharmacies are also able to administer the vaccine to Albertans 5 years of age and older.

Influenza vaccine

All Albertans 6 months of age and older can get the current 4-strain influenza vaccine free of charge.

Using a single vaccine makes the provincial immunization program more efficient. Having multiple types of vaccines available increases the complexity of the program.

Vaccine effectiveness

Vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year but immunization is still the best protection. The effectiveness of the current vaccine is not known when the immunization program begins but is determined as the season progresses.

Alberta influenza facts

The Alberta government purchased 1.6 million doses of influenza vaccine for the 2019 to 2020 season. This is enough to immunize 35% of the population.

  • total cost: $12.5 million

In 2018 to 2019, the Alberta government purchased 1.6 million doses of influenza vaccine.

  • total cost: $12.6 million
  • 31% of Albertans (roughly 1.2 million people) received the influenza vaccine
  • There were 1,976 hospitalizations and 52 deaths (in hospital) among people with lab-confirmed influenza
  • Alberta has offered universal influenza immunization free of charge since 2009

Alberta has offered universal influenza immunization free of charge since 2009.

Before 2009, the program targeted those most at risk of disease and complications.

Yearly influenza immunization rates

  • 2018 to 2019 – 31%
  • 2017 to 2018 – 29%
  • 2016 to 2017 – 27%
  • 2015 to 2016 – 27%
  • 2014 to 2015 – 30%
  • 2013 to 2014 – 27.6%
  • 2012 to 2013 – 23%
  • 2011 to 2012 – 22.5%
  • 2010 to 2011 – 22%

Every year we encourage more Albertans to get immunized.

Health care worker immunization

Health care workers are strongly encouraged to get immunized. Alberta Health Services reported the number of AHS healthcare workers vaccinated against influenza in 2018 to 2019 was 68%, compared to 66% in 2017 to 2018.

Alberta has a voluntary immunization policy for health care workers. The focus is on education, promotion, and making it easy for health care workers to get immunized.

Influenza surveillance

Seasonal Influenza Summary Reports

Influenza information and surveillance data

Alberta respiratory virus surveillance interactive data